Roger Kirnos of Knight Law Group and Bryan C. Altman of Altman Law Group secured a $64,000 award for Ford Focus owner Mark Pedante in a trial against Ford Motor Company, in which Ford was found guilty of willful violations of the Song-Beverly Consumer Warranty Act.
Kirnos said that had Pedante remained in a class action lawsuit against Ford, which involved two million owners of 2011–2016 Focus and Fiesta models and is being challenged on the basis of its settlement terms, he would have received nothing.
“Ford would like the class action to sweep up millions of people who will not have any claims or any financial compensation,” Kirnos said. “Of course Ford would like to sweep this under the rug and are unhappy that consumer lawyers […] would actually defend people who can’t otherwise afford to get their defense.”
Litigants in the class action settlement and in multidistrict litigation cases allege that Ford’s Focus and Fiesta models “shudder, buck and jerk” due to faulty DPS6 transmissions.
Ford agreed to settle with about two million consumers for a total of $35 million in cash payments for repairs, plus a buyback program for eligible members of the class action suit. Though U.S. District Judge Andre Birotte Jr. approved the settlement in 2017, it was rejected by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in September and faces renegotiation in a February 2020 hearing.
The multidistrict litigation cases – Pedante’s case among them – and a fraud investigation opened by the Department of Justice threaten the settlement. If Birotte nullifies the settlement during the renegotiation hearing, class members could withdraw from the class action and pursue individual litigation, bringing to Ford a litigation liability of about $4 billion.
“At the time of the original fairness hearing, we had zero info about how much these cases were worth if litigated to a judgment because none had gone to trial,” said Michael Kirkpatrick, a Washington D.C. lawyer and Public Citizen member who challenged the settlement terms. “From the time the district court originally evaluated the settlement and now, we have learned so much more information. That is why we think the risk to Ford has increased.”