TRANSPORTATION

Substantial Victory

Substantial victory for Ford Motor Company

In March, 2012, Michael Osborne, Brian Franklin and Teresa Li achieved a defense judgment for our client, Ford Motor Company, in the first of several jury trials in 2012 on behalf of the manufacturer. The several-week jury trial resulted in a verdict for the defense on five of six counts. As to the remaining count, breach of the implied warranty, the court awarded judgment notwithstanding the verdict in favor of Ford Motor Company.


Problem

Plaintiffs alleged their 2004 Ford Excursion failed to conform to the manufacturer's express and implied warranties, despite numerous repair opportunities by Ford. Plaintiffs presented a theory that the engine was defective resulting in a loss of power and performance that substantially impaired the use, value and safety of the vehicle. Plaintiffs attempted to establish, through numerous witnesses, Ford's awareness of the alleged defects and knowledge of alternative designs capable of correcting the problems.


Solution

Ford maintained that plaintiffs' alleged loss of power was contrived. Brian Franklin presented Ford's case-in-chief through multiple technicians and a Field Service Engineer qualified as an expert in the various areas of vehicle performance at-issue in the case. The evidence established that the vehicle required relatively routine maintenance over the course of seven years and 80,000 plus miles. Plaintiffs never presented their vehicle for multiple repairs of the same problem while under warranty, and the turbo engine required only two unrelated repairs while under warranty. In all instances, Ford either fixed the damaged component or replaced it free of charge. All repairs were made in a timely fashion. The vehicle was not out of service for any significant period of time. Through Ford's expert, it was shown that several complaints of loss of power were related to after-market components the plaintiffs had installed in the vehicle after purchase, placing a steady drain on the vehicle's electrical system.


Result

Michael Osborne delivered a compelling closing that sought to simplify the case for the jury, pointing out that the host of non-warranty-law claims asserted by plaintiffs' counsel only complicated their job and confused the issues. Following two and a half days of deliberation, the jury found for the defense on the claims of breach of express warranty under the Song-Beverly Consumer Warranty Act and the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act, intentional misrepresentation, concealment and false advertising. The jury found for plaintiffs on the claim of breach of implied warranty, despite a finding that Ford's conduct was not a substantial factor in causing plaintiffs' damages. Teresa Li briefed and argued Ford's motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict, addressing issues of tolling and the statute of limitations. The court agreed with Ford's assessment that the statute of limitations on the implied warranty claim had well-expired prior to suit, and awarded judgment for Ford on this claim. The court vacated the judgment in plaintiffs’ favor, and struck plaintiffs’ motion for almost $400,000 in attorneys’ fees and expenses.

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