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Updated: Tue, 06 May 2014 05:23:57 GMT | By CBC News, cbc.ca

Faulty Ford Escape fight goes to Supreme Court



Elaine Snow, from Mount Pearl, says her 2009 Ford Escape has been randomly having power surges or shutting down completely since May 2010. CBC

Elaine Snow, from Mount Pearl, says her 2009 Ford Escape has been randomly having power surges or shutting down completely since May 2010. CBC

A Newfoundland woman, who's terrified anytime she gets behind the wheel of her SUV, says she's fed up trying to get the Ford Motor Company of Canada to fix the vehicle, and she's now taking her fight to court.

Elaine Snow, from Mount Pearl, filed a suit with the Supreme Court of Newfoundland and Labrador in St. John's last month.

She purchased a new 2009 Ford Escape, because of her past positive experiences with a 2006 model of the same make.

She found the previous model comfortable to drive and good for her back pain — it was easy for her to get into and out of.

But she started having trouble with the 2009 Escape in May 2010. There were about 24,000 kilometres on the vehicle at the time, when she started experiencing, according to court documents, "intermittent power surges, power loss, and complete shut down."

"She power surges and shuts off on me, with no advance warning at all," Snow said. 

"I lose all of my power. She just completely shuts off as if you turn off your ignition."

Similar complaints about the same model regarding stalling or power loss issues have been posted on the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration website in the United States.

Snow said she's now afraid to get behind the wheel.

"The unknown is unknown. It's pretty scary at times, especially in wet, damp weather — it's when she acts up the most," she said.

"I just take the chances and hope that she doesn't have a problem. But recently, she's had a lot of issues."

In the garage

Snow's SUV has been in the shop about 20 times — sometimes for extended periods.

"Last year, for example, my vehicle sat in a Ford dealership for 103 days," she said.

Originally, mechanics thought that water was getting into the engine and damaging an onboard computer called the powertrain control module (PCM).

A plastic shield was placed over the PCM to keep it dry, but the Escape continued to stall out.

The PCM itself has been replaced six times.

While Ford Canada is footing the bill for repairs, Snow is fighting to get a permanent fix to her vehicle woes.

She took her battle to the Canadian Motor Vehicle Arbitration Plan (CAMVAP), which is funded by the auto industry, but the majority of its board members are from government and the Consumers' Association of Canada.

Since March 2013, Snow has won four times at the arbitration level — two arbitration awards and two clarifications — with the arbitrator repeatedly telling Ford Canada that it has to repair Snow's vehicle.

After the last ruling in January, Ford Canada had 30 days to fix the vehicle, but Snow said it is still not working properly.

Court battle

Snow has now taken her claim to the Supreme Court of Newfoundland and Labrador. She wants Ford to give her another vehicle.

Her lawyer, Kyle Rees, said while CAMVAP looks like a great program, it has issues.

"The problem here is that there was no teeth to the arbitration program," he said. 

"The only way that Ms. Snow could get an effective remedy, to get a remedy that could be enforced, and a remedy that would have consequences for Ford Canada, if they refuse to abide by it, was to register it with the court, and carry it out that way, which is what we did."

Ford Canada said it won't comment on the case because it's currently before the court.

While the matter works its way through the court system, Snow is still left with great uncertainty.

"Somebody could get killed, including myself," she said. 

"My family has been instructed that if anything happens [to me], that they're to go forward on this ... because the problem is still not fixed."

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