LOS ANGELES, Dec. 19, 2019 /PRNewswire/ -- For the second time in as many months, a unanimous jury in federal court agreed that Ford intentionally violated consumer protection laws and awarded the maximum penalties allowed. The plaintiffs, Salvador and Yvonne Quintero, claimed that problems with the DPS6 PowerShift transmission in their 2014 Ford Focus caused them to feel unsafe and, because of the problems, they eventually stopped using the vehicle -- continuing to make monthly payments.
The PowerShift transmission, installed in 2011 to 2017 Ford Fiesta and 2012 to 2017 Ford Focus vehicles. The DPS6 PowerShift transmission suffers from issues ranging from surging and shaking to unexpected losses of power. A class action involving the transmission defects was filed in 2017, and later settled. The Quinteros opted out of the class action since they would not have recovered anything based on the terms of the settlement. On December 17, 2019, a verdict was reached in their case pending in federal court in the Central District of California for $23,000.00, representing triple their total lease payments based on the penalties awarded.
Testimony and evidence in the case showed that Ford was aware of the problems and repeatedly failed to resolve them, while customers across the country were complaining about them. Internal records showed that the transmission accounted for 50% of all "Things Gone Wrong," an industry term describing the number of issues that need to be addressed, while the transmission made up only 25% of Ford's sales volume. The PowerShift transmission had more than 15 times as many "Things Gone Wrong" as other comparable-class vehicles. Ford knew about these problems since at least 2012, but continued to sell the vehicles without a fix.
The Quinteros, who were unaware of these problems when they leased their vehicle, described incidents of bucking, jerking, and loss of power while transporting their grandchildren. They called Ford and asked for a refund of their lease payments under the lemon law, but Ford stated their vehicle did not qualify. Ford's expert testified that the transmission woes did not present any safety concerns.
The class action settlement remains in limbo. After the judge presiding over that matter, Judge Andre Birotte, Jr. of the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, who also presides over the Quinteros' case along with nearly 1,000 similar cases filed by California consumers who opted out of the class action, approved the settlement. The its fairness of the settlement terms for class members was appealed by objectors to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, which determined that Judge Birotte may have overlooked various factors before signing off on the settlement. The settlement was sent back for further review. "I don't really know how or if this verdict will ultimately affect the class settlement that is being challenged. I think it's becoming clear that the overwhelming majority would receive a far better outcome individually than they would as part of the settlement class," attorney Roger Kirnos said. "Ford knew what it was doing with these transmissions and intended to do it," he added.
Another consumer who sued Ford for the same types of transmission problems received a unanimous verdict in November of this year for $65,000.00, after that jury also determined Ford willfully violated the law. This was also three times his total payments. Both of these consumers alleged claims for fraud, against Ford but those claims were dismissed by Judge Birotte before trial. In 2018, a jury in Los Angeles County returned a verdict for over $630,000, including punitive damages, based on Ford's fraud in a similar transmission case. According to attorney Bryan Altman, "many of the documents admitted in evidence at these trials reveal that Ford was well aware of substantial defects in the transmissions used in the Ford vehicles far in advance of the time the vehicles were sold or leased to unwitting consumers. Moreover, the efforts Ford employed to resolve these defects failed to fix the issues. The defects in these vehicles continued to subject consumers to dangerous conditions that impaired the vehicles' use, value and safety."
The Quinteros were represented at trial by Bryan Altman of the Altman Law Group, Paul Kiesel and Stephanie Taft of Kiesel Law LLP, and Roger Kirnos of the Knight Law Group. Ford was represented by Frank Kelly and Andrew Chang from Shook Hardy & Bacon LLP.
SOURCE Knight Law Group, LLP