WE’VE ALL RECEIVED POSTCARDS ADVISING US THAT WE’RE PART OF A CLASS ACTION. WHAT DOES THAT MEAN IN THE LEMON LAW WORLD?
We’ve all received postcards advising us that we’re part of a class action. What does that mean in the Lemon Law world?
A great example of a class action case in the Lemon Law setting is currently happening. That case is entitled Vargas v. Ford Motor Company and it is pending in the United States District Court Central District of California – Western Division (this means that it is in federal court).
If you bought a Ford Focus (model years 2012 to 2016) or a Ford Fiesta (model years 2011 to 2016) with a PowerShift Transmission, there’s a very high likelihood that your vehicle comes under the class action that is pending in California. Although the case was filed in California, the class includes the above referenced cars that were purchased anywhere in the United States, including the territories.
A class action is essentially a method of bringing a case where a person or persons represents the interests of an entire class or group of individuals. The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, more specifically Rule 23, explain what is necessary to establish a case as a class action.
First, there must be numerous members of the class. The statute doesn’t explain exactly how many members it takes to be considered numerous, but many cases have interpreted this. Next, the questions or issues of law or fact have to be common amongst the members. Similarly, the claims of the class representatives must be typical of those of the other class members. There’s much more to the concept of a class action, but it’s beyond the scope of this post.
If you fall into the definition of a class which has been approved as a class action, then your rights are impacted by the outcome of the class case. For example, in Vargas v. Ford Motor Company, there was a requirement that if you wanted to opt out of the class, you’d need to follow very specific steps to do so on or before September 5, 2017. If you’re reading this article, then you are too late to opt out because I wrote it well after the opt-out deadline.
So now, if you have a car that falls within the class definition and you haven’t previously opted out of the class, then you are likely part of the class. This means that you will want to know the deadlines, the requirements and the potential outcomes as established by the case.
The best resource that I have seen for information related to this class action can be found at FordTransmissionSettlement.com. I visit that site often so that I can counsel my clients in Michigan and Ohio as their claims related to the class action. The site provides documents, maybe more than you’ll want, but reading those documents is a great way to see what is happening and what it takes to achieve an outcome.
Since the opt-out deadline has passed, if you have a vehicle that is part of the class and you follow any procedures, then you will receive what is outlined in the class documents. If you are not satisfied with the settlement or if you believe that your claim has more value, then you may be able to present the claim for arbitration, but again, you better read the case documents on that website to understand the procedure.
Whether a class action is the best way to resolve a dispute is subject to debate and to many differing opinions. For example, in Michigan and Ohio, I have turned away many cases that I otherwise would have handled since the consumer hadn’t opted out of the class. My office still looks at these cases to determine whether it makes sense to pursue arbitration.
It’s also important to understand the Lemon Law in your state as that will be important to your claim. In Michigan, the Lemon Law appears at Michigan Compiled Law § 257.1401 et. seq. (this means it includes the sections that follow as well).
In Ohio, the law appears at Ohio Revised Code § 1345.71 et. seq. If you live in a different state, then you’d want to know the applicable laws for your state and you should certainly consult with an attorney that is familiar with both the Lemon Law and the requirements of this national class action. In the states that I’m familiar with, a car must be subject to a certain number of warranty repairs within a certain timeframe. There’s a lot more to these laws, but that’s the important starting point.
I intended for this post to give the purchasers of certain Ford Focus and Ford Fiesta vehicles some insight and understanding about what is happening. The article is not intended to give legal advice for any specific situation as I’d need the facts of the particular claim. In Michigan or Ohio, I’d be happy to speak with consumers that feel that they fit within the class. In other states, I’d encourage you to call an attorney. I have spoken with so many consumers in so many states that have experienced serious problems with these transmissions. You need to know your rights.
I’ve enjoyed writing this and I hope you find it helpful,