Family files lawsuit against Ford after carbon monoxide deaths

CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) - The family of a Highland Park couple, who died of carbon monoxide poisoning, has filed a lawsuit against the Ford Motor Company.

The family says that Ford knew about the potential dangers of cars equipped with keyless entry systems that are accidentally left running, but did nothing about it.

"Clearly the Fontanini's did not know the car was running," said attorney Ted McNabola.

McNabola represents the family of Rina and Pasquale Fontanini, who’s an elderly Highland Park couple who died from carbon monoxide poisoning last June after their 2013 Lincoln MKS was inadvertently left running in their garage.

Like many newer cars, the couple’s Lincoln was equipped with a keyless ignition system.

The couple had returned home from a family gathering, and the lawsuit alleges Rina Fontanini pushed the start/stop ignition button, but didn't notice the car failed to turn off.

"As some point during the night they became aware of it and Mr. Fontanini went down, opened the garage door, turned off the car and then went back into the home to try to save his wife. But unfortunately he was overcome with carbon monoxide and died trying to help his wife," said McNabola.

The couple's bodies were discovered the next day by their son, Cesare, who is a lieutenant in the Highland Park Fire Department.

The wrongful death lawsuit alleges Ford and the auto industry have been aware of the design flaw for years. It also says Ford has installed a fix on some, but not all of its models; the fix being an automatic shutoff for cars left running unattended for more than 15 minutes.

"The Fontanini family is devestated by this loss. They filed this lawsuit to motivate Ford and the auto industry in general to make a safer product and make sure this tragedy never happens to another family," McNabola said.

While this is the first such lawsuit against Ford, at least ten other auto manufacturers have been sued for the keyless entry problem, which safety experts say has led to at least 15 deaths across the country.

Ford gave FOX 32 the following statement:

"Ford takes the safety of our customers very seriously; the keyless ignition system has proven to be a safe and reliable innovative feature that has been well-received by customers.  Ford vehicles equipped with keyless ignition... alert drivers when the driver's door is opened and the vehicle's engine is running."