A Ford (Jay Mallin)
A federal judge has ordered lawyers in a class action alleging sudden acceleration defects against Ford Motor Co. to file a joint report by April 25 outlining what remains of their case following his recent dismissal ruling.
Chief Judge Robert Chambers of the Southern District of West Virginia dismissed several of the claims in a case brought by consumers in 14 states. His March 31 ruling also applies to two other class actions before him.
All three suits, filed after Toyota Motor Corp.’s $1.6 billion consumer class action settlement over sudden acceleration defects, allege that Ford failed to install a brake override system in the vehicles to remedy defects in the electronic throttle control system. They are filed on behalf of a class of current and former owners and lessees of various Ford vehicles made between 2002 and 2010.
In his ruling, Chambers agreed with Ford that the warranty claims of all but two of the 20 plaintiffs in one case should be dismissed because their vehicles didn’t actually accelerate on their own. Plaintiffs attorneys had sought economic injuries, such as the diminished value of their vehicles caused by the defects.
“Plaintiffs simply have failed to demonstrate a plausible claim that they paid more for their vehicles than their actual worth when they have used their vehicles without incident for many years,” Chambers wrote.
Chambers also tossed various fraud claims, concluding that the plaintiffs had failed to prove that Ford’s safety statements in advertisements and financial reports were misleading or that the plaintiffs had relied on them when purchasing their vehicles.
But the judge also concluded the plaintiffs had adequately alleged a design defect. And he retained proposed injunctive relief.
“Whether or not this court should or will issue a nationwide recall or free replacement program is an issue better addressed at a later time,” he wrote.
Two lead plaintiffs attorneys, Adam Levitt, head of the consumer practice group at Wilmington’s Grant & Eisenhofer who works in the Chicago office, and Niall Paul, a member of Spilman, Thomas & Battle in Charleston, W.V., declined to comment. Ford attorney J. Tracy Walker, a partner at McGuireWoods in Richmond, referred calls to Ford spokeswoman Kristina Adamski, who wrote in an email to The National Law Journal: “It’s inappropriate for Ford to comment on pending litigation.”
The ruling comes on the same day that a federal judge in South Carolina refused to dismiss a similar class action brought by the owners of a 2010 Ford Mustang.