Ford reportedly has been hit with another lawsuit claiming defective door latches on as many as 400,000 pickups and sport utility vehicles have caused the doors to open in side-impact crashes and rollover accidents, resulting in death or serious injury for occupants.

The Canadian law firm of Will Barristers filed the suit Monday in Ontario Superior Court on behalf of defendant Maurice Poulin, who lives in northern Ontario, the Associated Press (AP) reported. The firm is pursuing class-action status and says 300,000 to 400,000 Ford vehicles in Canada may have defective door latches.

The suit reportedly seeks the cost to replace all defective latches on those Ford vehicles in Canada, an amount lawyers for the plaintiff say is $994 for a four-door vehicle. The suit also seeks punitive damages of about $403 million.

The suit says Ford tried "to hide the true nature of the consequences of the involved safety-related defect," and that senior executives called off a recall to fix the vehicles even after Ford engineers determined in March 2000 that such action was warranted.

The recall could have involved several million vehicles. The Canadian lawsuit says Ford installed defective door latches in model years 1997-2000 on the Ford F-150 and F-250 Super Light Duty pickups and Expedition SUV, and the Lincoln Blackwood pickup and Navigator SUV.

According to the Associated Press, Ford said on Tuesday, as it has on previous occasions, that the outside door handles and latch assemblies on the vehicles are safe and comply fully with all applicable government and industry standards.

"The documentation highlighted by plaintiffs' attorneys, who make a living suing companies like Ford, is being misconstrued," the automaker reportedly said. "The documentation shows that when Ford became aware of a potential problem with the spring torque configuration for the outside handles on certain F-150 trucks, it promptly investigated the issue, interviewed the suppliers, reconfirmed the inventory, took appropriate steps to ensure compliance and retested the handles and springs."

The suit also names several suppliers as defendants, AP noted, adding that Ford has been hit with several lawsuits in the United States in which plaintiffs claim latch failures led to fatal accidents that involved doors flying open.

Ford spokeswoman Kathleen Vokes told the Associated Press she had no immediate information on how many of the suits had been dismissed or settled and how many were pending.

Will Barristers reportedly said it is working with the South Carolina law firm of Motley Rice on a similar suit for US plaintiffs.