A federal judge has refused to dismiss a putative class action lawsuit against Ford Motor Co. In the case, filed in Florida, Ford is accused of installing a defective exhaust system in its Explorer models. It’s alleged that passengers were caused to be exposed to carbon monoxide and other gases. U.S. District Judge William P. Dimitrouleas denied Ford’s motion to dismiss the suit involving an allegedly hazardous exhaust system in the SUVs.
Angela Sanchez-Knutson, the lead Plaintiff, filed suit in June, claiming she and her daughter suffer from chronic headaches as a result of exposure to dangerous levels of carbon monoxide in her 2013 Ford Explorer. She said the car was brought to the dealership for repair several times because of a sulfuric smell in the car but she was never informed that the odor actually signified exposure to the gas. It’s claimed that the gas seeps into the Explorer cabin when the air conditioning is in use. Ms. Sanchez-Knutson asked the judge for class certification two weeks after filing her suit. Judge Dimitrouleas had rejected her request in early July, saying the motion was premature.
In his latest ruling, the judge rejected the automaker’s contention that its warranty “expressly excludes” coverage for design defect claims. Judge Dimitrouleas also said that the fact the woman purchased the vehicle from a Ford dealership and not the automaker itself does not mean she can’t recover on a breach of implied warranty claim. The vehicles’ warranties, according to Judge Dimitrouleas order, include coverage of design defects.
In his order, Judge Dimitrouleas also said Ford can’t escape the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act claim at this stage in the litigation, saying it would be premature to determine whether participation in Ford’s informal dispute settlement procedure fits with the statutory criteria for the claim to survive. Judge Dimitrouleas also rejected Ford’s argument that the Florida Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act fails, saying the automaker wrongly argued that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) had jurisdiction over the claim. Judge Dimitrouleas said further in his order:
Ford’s argument of deferral to NHTSA because Plaintiff’s claims implicate vehicle safety issues has been offered and rejected.
The lead Plaintiff is represented by Michael A. Hersh, Jordan M. Lewis and John J. Uustal of the Kelley Uustal law firm. Mr. Uustal, one of the lawyers, told Law360 that any person who currently owns a 2011-2014 Ford Explorer should take precautions to protect against carbon monoxide. This case will be watched and closely monitored. It will be interesting to see how it develops as it goes thorough the motion and discovery phases of the litigation.
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