The action was filed in district court in Huntington, W.Va., by law firm Grand & Eisenhofer on behalf of owners of a wide range of Ford vehicles manufactured from 2002 to 2010.
The suit alleges there is a design defect in vehicles equipped with an electronic throttle control system but not a brake-override system. Ford started installing a brake-override system on some vehicles in 2010.
"NHTSA's work is far more scientific and trustworthy than work done by personal injury lawyers and their paid experts," said Ford spokeswoman Kristina Adamski, referring to studies by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration over the years that have concluded that most sudden acceleration cases stem from driver error. "In rare situations, vehicle factors, such as floor mats or broken mechanical components, can interfere with proper throttle operation, and manufacturers have addressed these rare events in field service actions."
Ford becomes the latest automaker to face complaints about unintended acceleration. Toyota recalled more than 10 million vehicles from 2009 to 2011, was subjected to congressional hearings on the problem and how it was handled, and has paid out $1.1 billion to settle lawsuits.
Audi had well-publicized problems with the issue in the 1980s and subsequently, sales plummeted to near-extinction in the U.S. It took the German luxury automaker a decade to recover.
Honda, Jeep, Mercedes-Benz, Hyundai and Kia brand vehicles have had reported incidents over the years.
"This case is about helping Ford Motor Co. fix its cars, compensate consumers, and potentially save lives," Adam Levitt, a director with Grant and Eisenhofer, said in a statement.
"Ford's unfortunate history of unintended acceleration problems has been detailed at length in the public record. While our clients seek recovery for the lost value of their cars, they also want Ford to fix the problem so that no more people are injured and no more lives are at risk because of the documented accelerator problems with Ford's vehicles."
The lawsuit contends that Ford owners have experienced incidences of sudden unintended acceleration and that Ford should have equipped its vehicles with brake-override system or another fail-safe system. The suit seeks damages for the reduced value of the affected vehicles because of the defect.
Following its recalls, Toyota said it would install a brake-override system in its vehicles, starting with the 2011 model year.
The suit lists the affected Ford brand vehicles as:
-2005-2007 Five Hundred
-2005-2009 Crown Victoria
-2009-2010 Escape and 2005-2010 Escape hybrid
-2004-2010 Explorer and 2007-2010 Explorer Sport Trac
-2008-2009 Taurus X
-2010 Transit Connect.
-2006-2008 Mark LT
-2005-2009 Town Car
-2002-2005 Cougar (XR7)
-2005-2009 Grand Marquis
-2009-2010 Mariner and 2005-2010 Mariner hybrid