Northern California Record

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Judge grants Ford summary judgment in lemon law MDL; Finds plaintiff could not prove damages

Federal Court

By Rich Peters | Oct 31, 2019


LOS ANGELES – The U.S. District Court for the Central District of California granted Ford Motor Co.’s motion for summary judgment in the case of a consumer who alleged there was a defective DPS6 transmission in his 2013 Ford Focus.

In multi district litigation consolidated against Ford, District Judge Andre Briotte Jr. on Oct. 29 ruled that plaintiff Mark Pedante's fraud claims failed because he could not prove damages. 

Represented by the Knight Law Group, Pedante claimed violation of the Song-Beverly Act based on breach of express warranty and fraudulent inducement by concealment, by intentional misrepresentation, and by negligent misrepresentation.

Ford requested summary judgment against all of Pedante’s fraud claims, including the punitive damages claim, and claim for civil penalties under the Song-Beverly Consumer Warranty Act, otherwise known as the California lemon law, which defines the main obligations of manufacturers of consumer goods covered by implied and express warranties.

In one of two defect claims Pedante pursued - that a wet clutch shudder attributed to leaking input shaft seals, allowing transmission oil to compromise the dry clutch resulting in excessive shudder - Ford admitted that it knew of the leaking input shaft seals issue before Pedante bought his vehicle and that it was working on solutions. 

It argued that under court precedent only an affirmative misrepresentation can be a deceptive act under California’s Consumer Legal Remedies Act (CLRA), but that an omission of a defect can be considered deceptive if seller was bound to disclose a defect that posed safety concerns.

"...Ford would have had a duty to disclose the leaking input shaft seals defect if that defect presented a safety concern," the ruling states. "Ford argues that Plaintiff cannot show that this defect posed a safety hazard. Plaintiff does not dispute that he must show a safety concern, but argues that this is a triable issue."

Birotte wrote that he had reviewed evidence and Pedante had not shown that there was a triable issue as to whether the leaking seals and the resulting wet clutch shudder posed a safety hazard, and as a result, "Plaintiff has not shown a triable issue as to Ford’s duty to disclose."

The judge took issue with a report Pedante submitted noting seven accidents specifically caused by shudder, with one involving scratches and bruises. Birotte wrote that that did not create a triable issue because it did not document that the alleged defect created an unreasonable safety risk.

"More importantly, this document was created in 2016, well after Plaintiff purchased his vehicle, and nothing in this document establishes what Ford knew before Plaintiff purchased his vehicle in 2013," Birotte wrote. 

Ford is represented by attorneys at Gordon Rees Sully Mansukhani and Shook Hardy and Bacon in San Francisco, and others.

In the last six years, more than 30,000 complaints have been filed against the auto industry in California courts and each year since 2015 that number has grown. More than 8,000 lawsuits were filed in 2018, and the pace of filings this year is on pace to surpass last year’s.

The auto manufacturer that has faced the most lemon lawsuits is Ford, and by a wide margin. Since 2015, it has been hit with at least 8,791 complaints. General Motors faces the second greatest number of suits with at least 5,612.

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Ford Motor CompanyU.S. District Court for the Central District of California

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