Ford's $35 million settlement of class action suit under appeal
13 May 2019 - Autoblog
Case involves dual-clutch transmission issues in Focus and Fiesta
A panel of judges in California is weighing an appeal of a $35 million settlement of a class-action lawsuit against Ford Motor Co., brought by a consumer group that says the settlement represents a sweat deal for the automaker, the Detroit Free Press reports.
Initially filed on March 24, 2017, and granted final approval in October of that year, the settlement addresses complaints from 1.9 million current or former owners of 2012-2016 Focus and 2011-2016 Fiesta models built with Ford's PowerShift dual-clutch transmissions. The customers allege the transmissions are prone to shudder, slip, jerk or hesitate when changing gears, resulting in premature wear and sudden or delayed acceleration. The settlement stipulates that owners or lease holders could be eligible to repurchase their vehicle through arbitration, get cash payments up to $2,325 or receive discount certificates of up to $4,650 toward purchasing a new vehicle.
The nonprofit consumer group Public Citizen is appealing the settlement, which it says represents a raw deal for consumers. They want the judges to tear up the settlement and send the case back to the district court.
"This was a windfall release for Ford," Michael Kirkpatrick, an attorney for the group, told the Freep. "People would be giving up their claims of very high value. We know Ford has been settling cases for $75,000 right off the bat when people bring their own lawsuits under California consumer protection law."
While it awaits a ruling on the appeal, the Freep reports that Ford faces an estimated 1,200 individual cases alleging consumer fraud in California, plus a "mass action" lawsuit filed in Wayne County (Michigan) Circuit Court representing 12,300 buyers who declined to join the class action suit and seek to have Ford award damages individually. Ford in a statement called the settlement "fair and appropriate." A ruling on the appeal is reportedly expected by December.
The appeal is separate from a class-action lawsuit filed in federal court earlier this week alleging that Ford deceived customers about the fuel economy of the 2019 Ranger pickup and used a "mileage cheat device."