A federal judge in California has rejected an attempt by Ford Motor Co. to deflect implied warranty claims in a proposed class action alleging power steering in some Focus and Fusion cars is prone to sudden failure. U.S. District Judge Lucy H. Koh found that each of Ford’s arguments against the claims “lack merit.” Judge Koh said that implied warranty claims under both the Song-Beverly Act and the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act reasserted in March by lead Plaintiff Jaime Goodman in an amended complaint over the alleged steering defect “rise and fall together.” Being so intertwined, Judge Koh said each are properly pled in view of the Ninth Circuit’s December ruling in Daniel v. Ford Motor Co., which found Focus warranties were vague enough to cover a latent rear suspension defect. Judge Koh said in her order:
Indeed, the facts here are almost identical to those in Daniel: Both cases involve the same defendant (Ford), the same sort of defect (a latent defect brought under the Song-Beverly Act after the one-year duration period), and even the same vehicle (the Focus). The Song-Beverly Act claim survived in Daniel. They also survive here.
Despite Ford’s claims that the ruling did not actually mean a driver can recover on an implied warranty claim “no matter when” a defect is found and that, essentially, a defect must be discovered within a year of purchase, Judge Koh found that argument did “not comport” with court precedent. In fact, she said the Ninth Circuit in Daniel and a state court of appeal in Mexia v. Rinker Boat Co. – which concerned a latent engine defect in certain Rinker boats – both held Plaintiffs in those cases could pursue claims of latent defects outside of the one-year period Ford has argued for. Judge Koh said in her order:
Ford has failed to explain why Mexia and, in particular, Daniel – a published Ninth Circuit decision involving the same basic claim against the same defendant and concerning the same vehicle – do not govern the instant case. Accordingly, the court finds that California plaintiffs have sufficiently alleged a Song-Beverly Act claim under Mexia and Daniel.
The suit filed by plaintiffs in June 2014 was initially on behalf of a nationwide class of drivers who had leased or purchased 2010-2014 Fusion and 2012-2014 Focus vehicles. The Plaintiffs alleged that Ford advertised the cars’ electric power-assisted steering system as enhancing vehicle safety, but knew the system was defective. The case is in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.
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