Ford accused of faulty transmissions; judges order case to be consolidated in California

By Elizabeth Alt | Feb 23, 2018

More than 100 plaintiffs have filed lawsuits against Ford Motor Company to claim a transmission in certain Ford models is defective.

More than 100 plaintiffs have filed lawsuits against Ford Motor Company to claim a transmission in certain Ford models is defective. 

On Feb. 6, the U.S. States Judicial Panel for Multi-litigation granted Ford’s motion to centralize litigation in central California. Many of the plaintiffs opposed the consolidation, alleging that the move would be unjust for several reasons.

Sitting on the panel for multidistrict litigation were Judge Sarah S. Vance, chair, who wrote the order, Also, Judge Marjorie O. Rendell, Judge Charles R. Breyer, Judge Lewis A. Kaplan, Judge Ellen Segal Huvelle, Judge R. David Proctor, and Judge Catherine D. Perry. 

Vance stated the precedent for product liability litigation can allow centralization when the complaints “allege a common defect involving similar products manufactured by the same company”.

In addition to the 110 actions in seven districts of California, “57 related federal actions” have been brought since Ford’s motion to centralize the lawsuit, according to the order. Half the plaintiffs did not respond to the motion to centralize, and most of the plaintiffs who did oppose the move conceded during the oral arguments that the Central District of California was an acceptable choice.

However, a smaller percentage of the plaintiffs argued that centralizing the lawsuits in the Central District of California would be unfair. The arguments said Ford “improperly removed” many of the lawsuits to get around state laws, that the company would use the consolidation to their favor, and stated further that some of the plaintiffs have remands pending. 

The plaintiffs said in oral arguments, according to the judicial order, centralization would be improper because “the actions also involve individualized questions of fact regarding the problems experienced by each plaintiff’s vehicle, the nature and number of repairs, the efficacy of the repairs, and the extent to which the alleged defect impaired each plaintiff’s use of the vehicle”.

Plaintiffs began filing lawsuits against Ford in February, alleging the DPS6 PowerShift transmission, an upgrade available in the Ford Focus model from 2012 to 2016 and the Fiesta model from 2011 to 2016, is defective, and could cause serious injuries to motorists. The complaints allege problems such as “slipping, bucking, jerking, sudden acceleration, delayed acceleration and downshifting, and premature wear that requires repair or replacement”, and claim that the malfunctions have led to accidents. 

Plaintiffs also allege the faulty transmission has diminished the value of their cars, and are seeking financial retribution for repair costs and other economic losses.

The plaintiffs say Ford knew about problems with the DPS6 as early as 2010, and tried to cover them up. The complaints state “Ford actively concealed, and continues to conceal, the transmission defect.”

The judicial panel stated in the order that “we find that these actions involve common questions of fact, and that centralization will serve the convenience of the parties and witnesses and promote the just and efficient conduct of this litigation.”

United States Panel on Multidistrict Litigation, Case Number 2:18-cv-01008-AB-FFM, Order Number MDL No. 2814


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