U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh, in a ruling last month, preserved most of a proposed class action against Ford Motor Co. over an alleged power steering defect. The automaker had attempted to have the suit dismissed a second time after the Plaintiffs amended their complaint. Even though Juge Koh granted Ford’s motion to dismiss one of the four claims of the named California Plaintiffs, as well as the proposed class bid for injunctive relief, she didn’t accept Ford’s contention that the Plaintiffs did not sufficiently plead their claims that the automaker fraudulently concealed the defect.
The Plaintiffs are seeking damages on behalf of a proposed nationwide class of consumers who had leased or purchased 2010-14 Ford Fusion and 2012-14 Ford Focus vehicles. The Plaintiffs claimed Ford advertised the cars’ electric power-assisted steering system as enhancing vehicle safety, knowing full well that the system actually contains a multitude of safety defects. Because of rulings by Judge Koh, the case now includes only a California class and alleged fraudulent concealment of the defect along with violations California’s Unfair Competition Law (UCL) and Consumer Legal Remedies Act (CLRA). The case no longer includes false advertising or warranty claims.
Because the consumers did not begin to experience the alleged problems with their steering systems until 2013 and 2014, Judge Koh ruled that the statute of limitations has not run out. In addition, Judge Koh held that the Plaintiffs plausibly alleged that Ford knew about the defect before the first of the Plaintiffs bought their cars in 2010 based on internal memos, consumer complaints and technical service bulletins. Ford claimed that the alleged power steering failure at low speeds was not an unreasonable safety risk, but judge Koh said the issue is a factual one that should go before a jury.
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