Possible $4 Billion Product Liability Case Against Ford Being Heard by Pasadena Appellate Panel

Published : Friday, May 10, 2019 | 5:16 AM

The U.S. Appeals Court for the Ninth Circuit has in its hands a class action lawsuit including some 1.9 million owners of Ford Focus and Ford Fiesta models with faulty transmissions. One lawyer has claimed Ford’s exposure in the matter could be as much as $4 billion.

The customers claim their 2012-2016 Focus and 2011-2016 Fiesta sedans were built with dual-clutch transmissions prone to “shuddering, slipping, bucking, jerking, hesitation while changing gears, premature internal wear, delays in downshifting and, in some cases, sudden or delayed acceleration,” according to court documents.

The company accused the unsuspecting buyers of being the cause of the problems they experienced.

At a hearing in April, Michael Kirkpatrick of Public Citizen, a nonprofit Washington, D.C.-based consumer group handling the case for free, argued that a proposed $35 million settlement provided a sweet deal for Ford – and a raw deal for its customers.

The Pasadena judges are deciding now whether to uphold or toss the settlement. Lawyers involved with the case, filed in 2012, say a ruling could come by December.

Ford Motor Company’s troubles don’t stop there.

An estimated 1,200 individual consumer fraud cases are pending in California, and drivers who did not join the class action filed a “mass action” lawsuit in Wayne County Circuit Court on behalf of over 12,000 buyers, according to Motor City’s newspaper of record, the Detroit Free Press.

Ford has also been penalized on the international market after complaints about their Focus and Fiesta models were filed in court.

In April 2018, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission fined Ford $10 million (Australian) after concluding the company engaged in “unconscionable and misleading or deceptive conduct” and made “false or misleading representations in its response to customer complaints.”

It was one of the largest fines under consumer law in Australian history.

A member of the Australian commission had said Ford refused to provide a refund or a no-cost replacement vehicle to consumers, even after multiple repairs that did not resolve consumers’ complaints.

The Detroit Free Press report said the class-action settlement that’s awaiting a ruling by the Pasadena court involves 1.5 million current and 400,000 former Ford owners.

The report also quoted the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration as saying it had received about 2,400 complaints about the transmissions, which included reports of vehicles lurching into intersections, failing to decelerate or suddenly accelerating, causing collisions and near misses.

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