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OSAKA — The family of a man killed when his car caught fire filed a lawsuit July 8 against the company that imported and sold him the vehicle as well as two car dealers that handled it.

The plaintiffs, the man’s widow and two children, who asked to remain anonymous, are seeking 107 million yen in damages from Mercedes-Benz Japan Co., Yanase & Co. and a car dealer in Kyoto. They are claiming that the vehicle was defective.

The man was killed when a fire broke out in the engine compartment while he was behind the wheel. Mercedes imported the 600SEL model Benz and sold it to Yanase. The man, who ran a textile company in Nara Prefecture, bought it used in June 1995 from the Kyoto-based dealer.

Three months later, while the man was driving along the Tomei Expressway in Shizuoka Prefecture, the fire broke out, according to the plaintiffs’ written complaint. The man was unable to get out of the vehicle and died in the fire, it says. “There are some scratches on the vehicle…. But without a crash, such an accident should not happen,” said Mikio Sekine, a lawyer for the plaintiffs. “This accident was caused because the car was defective.”

The victim’s widow said she wants to know the cause of the accident. “I wonder why my husband had to die. He just drove the car as usual,” she said.

The plaintiffs and the defendants were unable to settle the case through mediation between last September and February at the Osaka Summary Court, according to the lawyer. Commenting on the action, Mercedes-Benz Japan said its cars are not structurally defective and the company would seek to determine the full facts in court. The cause of the fire has not yet been established.

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