A Florida federal judge has agreed to certify a class of Florida drivers alleging Ford Motor Co. used a defective exhaust system that exposes passengers to dangerous levels of carbon monoxide. The automaker’s objection that the certification requirements weren’t met was rejected by U.S. District Judge William P. Dimitrouleas.
The judge did agree with Ford in his order that the Plaintiff, Angela Sanchez-Knutson, can’t use a straight arithmetic damages model to support the predominancy requirement. However, Judge Dimitrouleas found an alternative damages model acceptable and approved class certification. He wrote:
The court accepts plaintiff’s proffered expert’s proposed conjoint analysis damages model for purposes of class certification, finding that it is sufficiently tied to plaintiff’s legal theory and her proffered evidence that her Explorer shares the same defect as all others in its product line and meets the predominance requirement.
While Judge Dimitrouleas ruled that the Plaintiff met the numerosity, commonality, typicality and adequacy requirements, he rejected her attempt to certify a Rule 23(b)(2) class action, which allows for final injunctive relief or declaratory relief, and sometimes monetary damages, for the class as a whole. Judge Dimitrouleas said in his order:
The court finds that the injunctive relief that plaintiff requests is the equivalent of the judicial recall claim that plaintiff withdrew at the motion to dismiss stage in order to avoid Ford’s preemption and primary jurisdiction arguments. Having abandoned her claim for a judicial recall when faced with Ford’s preemption and primary jurisdiction arguments, plaintiff cannot resurrect a comparable remedy at this stage in order to seek a Rule 23(b)(2) certification.
Judge Dimitrouleas otherwise approved the motion and certified a class of all people who bought or leased a 2011-2015 Ford Explorer during the class period from authorized Ford dealers in Florida. Ms. Sanchez-Knutson sued Ford in June 2014, claiming she and her daughter suffer from chronic headaches as a result of exposure to dangerous levels of carbon monoxide from driving in her 2013 Ford Explorer. She soon moved for class certification, but Judge Dimitrouleas denied the request as being premature.
Judge Dimitrouleas also dismissed additional claims brought by Ms. Sanchez-Knutson in July, granting a Ford motion to dismiss. The judge ruled she only had standing to represent the claims of a proposed Florida class who had purchased Explorers between 2011 and 2013. Ms. Sanchez-Knutson is represented by John J. Uustal, Jordan M. Lewis and Michael A. Hersh of Kelley Uustal PLC.
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