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Ford to Pay Attorney Fees After Delaying Recall

» Posted June 10, 2016Resources | Share This Post

When a car manufacturer is aware of an issue with a vehicle or car parts, the responsible thing to do is to recall the car and fix the problem. Sometimes, however, vehicle manufacturers simply ignore defects in cars.

When a car dealer or manufacturer fails to fulfill its responsibilities in any way, this can result in legal action against the manufacturer. A Los Angeles lemon law attorney can provide assistance with a case and can help those who are affected by a vehicle defect to understand their legal rights.

A U.S. District Court judge has ordered Ford Motor Co. to pay the attorneys' fees of a group of drivers who had been part of a proposed class suing the car company. The order originated in a case called Jean MacDonald et al. v. Ford Motor Co., case number 3:13-cv-02988.

The judge held that Ford had to pay the fees of the drivers who hired a lawyer due to vehicle defects. The order stems from the fact that the car maker was not able to demonstrate it had independently intended to recall the vehicles.

The drivers claimed, and the judge believed, that Ford only recalled the cars because the group of drivers had sued. Since it was the lawsuit that prompted Ford to finally take the vehicles off the market, the drivers who brought the suit deserved to have their attorneys’ fees covered.

According to Law 360, the initial case was brought against Ford in 2013 by a class of drivers who claimed the car manufacturer did not recall two different brands of vehicles despite knowing there were problems.

The vehicles included Ford Escape Hybrids and Mercury Mariners and the alleged problem was within the cooling system of the engine. The cooling system problems caused the cars to stall.   The affected models included Ford Escape Hybrids from 2005 through 2008, as well as Mercury Mariner models from 2006 through 2008. 

More on the Drivers’ Arguments

The drivers argued that Ford had knowingly sold vehicles that weren't reliable and safe, in breach of the implied warranties set forth in California's Song-Beverly Consumer Warranty Act.  The drivers' claims arising out of Song-Beverly were dismissed but claims under California's Consumer Legal Remedies Act and Unfair Competition laws proceeded.

While Ford did eventually recall over 70,000 vehicles, the drivers claimed the car maker was prompted to recall the cars by the lawsuit and wouldn't have recalled the cars otherwise.  The drivers subsequently filed a motion to recover attorneys' fees, arguing that the only reason that Ford recalled the cars was because of the refusal by the federal judge to dismiss the entire 2013 lawsuit.

Ford denies that it only recalled the cars because it had been sued. While the problem was apparent well before the cars were recalled, Ford argued that the delay was because the employee who was tasked with handling inquiries about vehicle problems had been swamped with work. Since this employee was allegedly so busy, he did not get around to determining if there were problems with the two vehicles in question. 

The judge didn't buy Ford's story that an overworked employee caused the delay. The car company had seen several complaints that were made to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.  Further, the Judge found “significant holes in Ford's evidence as it pertains to the decision-making process behind the recall.”  As a result, Ford was ordered to pay the attorneys’ fees.

Drivers need to understand their rights if car makers release defective cars, especially if the car manufacturers refuse to recall the vehicles. A lemon law attorney can help.


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