CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas, Nov. 17, 2020 /PRNewswire/ -- A federal judge for the Southern District of Texas issued a ruling on November 2nd rejecting the vast majority of arguments brought by Ford Motor Company in a motion to dismiss the class action litigation brought by Texas motorists who purchased Ford-manufactured diesel Power Stroke Super Duty trucks equipped with a defective high-pressure fuel injection pump known as the CP4.
In the 29-page opinion, Judge Nelva G. Ramos of the Southern District of Texas granted in part and denied in part Ford's motion, but only granted dismissal with respect to the plaintiffs' Magnuson Moss Warranty Act claims; the judge found that all other causes of action may proceed as pled.
The Texas motorists originally filed suit against Ford in December 2018, alleging that the CP4 high-pressure fuel injection pump, which comes standard in all 2011-present model year Ford diesel vehicles equipped with a Power Stroke 6.7L engine, is incompatible with U.S. diesel fuel. The pump was originally designed for use in Europe, where the diesel fuel is "dirtier," or more lubricious, than that of the U.S. Because of the heightened pressure that the CP4 exerts in order to increase fuel efficiency, it causes the pump to disintegrate on itself, as the pump's internal metal parts rub against one another generating friction such that metal shavings wear off and are dispersed throughout the high-pressure fuel injection system. This process begins from the very first crank of the Power Stroke engine. Once these metal shards have sufficiently contaminated the high-pressure fuel injection system, the CP4 fuel pump will suddenly and catastrophically fail — oftentimes while the vehicle is in motion — and become unable to be restarted. What is more, the "repair" cost for a catastrophic CP4 failure is frequently upwards of $10,000, a cost which Ford generally refuses to cover under warranty by blaming the consumer for "fuel contamination" — contamination which is caused by the shredding CP4 itself.
The Texas motorists claim that they would not have purchased their Power Stroke 6.7L diesel vehicles had they known about the CP4 "ticking time-bomb" beforehand, and certainly not if they had known that they would have to foot the bill for an unexpected catastrophic failure.
On July 17, 2020, Ford moved to dismiss the Texas motorists' second amended class action complaint, arguing that Ford's advertisements touting the vehicles' durability and fuel efficiency were "mere puffery" upon which the Texas motorists could not base their fraud allegations. In yesterday's ruling, however, Judge Ramos disagreed, explaining that, "Puffery does not insulate the representations here about the durability of the engine as well as the efficiency of the fuel system—all contrary to the facts Ford knew and did not disclose."
The Court went on to write:
"Ford treats a defective fuel system—which can bring the vehicle to a stop anytime, anywhere, without warning and which requires complete replacement of the fuel system at a price of at least $10,000—as a mere inconvenience that does not affect the vehicle's ordinary purpose of transportation. The Court does not agree. As Plaintiffs point out, selling a vehicle in America which is incompatible with prevalent American diesel fuel sources is selling a product without something necessary to its adequacy. That makes it unfit for its ordinary purpose."
The Court also rejected Ford's argument that the CP4 fuel pump defect does not render the vehicles unreasonably dangerous as a matter of law:
"Ford argues that the alleged fuel pump defect does not render the vehicle unreasonably dangerous because both Plaintiffs' vehicles activated driver alerts, allowing them to take action to safely pull out of traffic. . . . Furthermore, it claims that Plaintiffs have not quit driving their vehicles because of any concern over their safety. But the capability of the vehicles to stall while driving at high speeds because of the fuel pump defect remains. Ford has not shown that its product is—as a matter of law—fit for its ordinary purpose merely because its worst inherent defect has not yet manifested."
Judge Ramos previously considered and rejected a similar argument brought by General Motors LLC in connection with a related CP4-defect case, also pending in the Southern District of Texas. See Click, et al. v. General Motors LLC, No. 2:18-cv-00455 (S.D. Tex.), ECF No. 83:
"The worst case scenario of a truck spontaneously stalling at high speeds is not a mere inconvenience. Nor is it a mere inconvenience to spend between $8,000 to $20,000 on repairs to make the trucks fit for their ordinary purpose. The Court rejects GM's suggestion that the risk of spontaneous engine failure while driving is not, as a matter of law, unreasonably dangerous, depriving the vehicles of fitness for their purpose of transportation."
Notably, GM also largely lost a separate motion to dismiss in July 2019 in a case out of the Northern District of California, where California drivers brought suit based on the same CP4 fuel pump defect but have since agreed to transfer to the Eastern District of Michigan. See In re: GM LLC CP4 Fuel Pump Litig., No. 3:18-cv-07054-JST (N.D. Cal.), ECF No. 51.
Attorney Bob Hilliard, who has initiated a series of CP4-based class action cases across the country against automakers like Ford, GM, and Chrysler, issued a statement saying, "The fuel pump is the heart of the diesel engine. Ford intentionally put a defectively designed CP4 fuel pump in every one of its 6.7L Power Stroke diesel trucks—and, as yet another Court has recognized, from mile one it will begin to fail. There is no fix. The only question is how much will it cost the customer? Generally the answer is in the tens of thousands of dollars. As Ford is now about to learn, Don't Mess With Texas Trucks!"
The Texas motorists are represented by Robert C. Hilliard, Lauren Akers, Marion Reilly and Bradford P. Klager of Hilliard Martinez Gonzales LLP; Steve W. Berman and Jerrod Patterson of Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro LLP; and Andrew Parker Felix of Morgan & Morgan PA.
Ford is represented by Charles B. Hampton, Perry W. Miles, IV, Courtney C. Shytle, and W. Cole Geddy of McGuireWoods LLP.
The case is Stevens, et al. v. Ford Motor Company, Case No. 2:18-cv-00456, pending before the Honorable Judge Nelva G. Ramos in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas.
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Hilliard Martinez Gonzales LLP (HMG) has been successfully representing clients in the United States and Mexico since 1986. The firm specializes in mass torts, personal injury, product liability, commercial and business litigation, and wrongful death. Founding partner Bob Hilliard was named 2016 Elite Trial Attorney of the Year (Motor Vehicles) and 2015 Elite Trial Attorney of the Year (Product Liability) by the National Law Journal. His cases have been covered by The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, NBC, ABC, CBS and Fox News.
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