Federal Judge Grants in Part, Denies in Part Ford Motor Company’s Motion to Dismiss

ford-escort-3-291948-m.jpgRecently, a federal judge in Huntington, West Virginia granted in part and denied in part Ford Motor Company’s motion to dismiss a class-action lawsuit. The lawsuit had been filed by consumers who claimed that the Ford models they purchased were vulnerable to sudden and unintended acceleration. Chief Judge Robert C. Chambers’s decision will bar those who bought their Fords used from arguing that Ford experienced unjust enrichment, but will otherwise leave the lawsuit intact.

The situation began when owners of Ford vehicles purchased between 2002 and 2010 filed two class-action lawsuits against the company over the issue of sudden acceleration problems. In both lawsuits, consumers argued that their Ford vehicles lacked an adequate override system to protect drivers in situations of sudden, unintended acceleration. While not every injured party experienced a collision due to this problem, each one argued that had they been informed of the problem, they never would have purchased the vehicle. Ford sought to have at least one of the lawsuits dismissed.

In response, the federal court determined that one of Ford Motor Company’s arguments had merit, but that the others were not enough to merit dismissal of the lawsuit. Regarding unjust enrichment, the court agreed that claims for unjust enrichment should be dismissed for consumers who bought their Fords used because their purchase did not bestow any benefit on Ford, and they could not prove that they paid more for their Ford vehicles than they were worth.

The court then addressed Ford Motor Company’s other arguments. Ford had argued that the complaint in its entirety should have been dismissed due to the plaintiffs in the class-action lawsuit failing to allege any design or manufacturing defect specifically in the ETC system that made their vehicles vulnerable to sudden and unintended acceleration. Failure to identify a specific design defect made the plaintiffs’ claims insufficient as a result of standards set by Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly and Ashcroft v. Iqbal. The court, however, disagreed, finding that although the plaintiffs did not cite a specific reason for the malfunction, their complaints did focus on the fact that the ETC system was designed to detect just one point of failure, rather than multiple faults at the same time. They had argued that the ETC system should have had failsafes designed into it as well, such as a BOA system that would have given the driver control of the throttle in the case of unintended acceleration.

Ford had also argued that the class-action lawsuit should be dismissed because the company should not be required to provide its vehicles with the most advanced safety features. The court agreed, but again noted that the issue was whether the ETC system was defective. That was an issue better left to be determined after an extensive period of discovery; if the company still felt that the case had no merit, it could file a motion for summary judgment. Therefore, the court decided that the lawsuit should be allowed to persist, for now.

The Wolfe Law Firm has been providing legal services for nearly 25 years. Located in Elkins, West Virginia, the firm provides services in the areas of personal injury, criminal defense, bankruptcy, and mediation. If you are looking for an experienced West Virginia personal injury attorney, contact us today.

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