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Class action reinstated against Ford over Focus rear suspensions

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A federal appeals court has overturned a lower court ruling and reinstated a putative class action litigation filed against Ford Motor Co. in connection with its Ford Focus vehicles, whose rear suspensions are allegedly defective.

Plaintiffs in the case had charged that Ford breached implied and express warranties and committed fraud in the sale of its model year 2005 to 2011 Ford Focus vehicles, which have rear suspension defects, according to Wednesday’s ruling by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco in Margie Daniel et al. v. Ford Motor Co.

According to the ruling, the Focus models have a rear suspension “alignment/geometry” defect that leads to premature tire wear, and that in turn leads to safety hazards such as decreased control in handling, steering, stability and braking, the threat of catastrophic tire failure, and drifting while driving on wet or snow-covered roads.

The plaintiffs filed suit in U.S. District Court in Sacramento in November 2011, which granted Ford summary judgment dismissing the case. The plaintiffs appealed.

“The focus of this case is whether Ford Motor Co. sold the plaintiffs a pig in a poke,” said the ruling. In reversing the lower court, the three-judge appeals court panel unanimously held:

• The District Court erred when it did not follow a California appellate court decision that held that “latent defects” may breach the implied warranty even when they are not discovered within the implied warranty’s duration;

• The Ford warranty “must be constructed to guarantee both manufacturing and design defects” given its ambiguous terms; and

• The plaintiffs created a “genuine issue of material fact” as to whether they had relied on Ford’s omissions in purchasing the cars.

The case was remanded for further proceedings.