Ford Motor Co. has agreed to provide “substantial cash payments” and “other benefits” to the owners of about 1.5 million of its Fiesta and Focus models that had to be repaired due to malfunctioning transmissions. The settlement covers owners and lessees of 2011 to 2016 Ford Fiestas and 2012 to 2016 Ford Focuses. Ford did not oppose the Plaintiff’s motion for preliminary approval of the settlement. The alleged malfunctions included vehicles that slipped, bucked, kicked or jerked while the driver attempted to accelerate.

Ford will provide a private arbitration program through which consumers will be able to get the automaker to repurchase or replace defective vehicles. It’s estimated that resolution of claims will take one to two months, but the program’s rules also authorize repurchase or replacement of any vehicle that has endured four attempts to fix its transmission hardware within five years or 60,000 miles and that still doesn’t work.

The program also extends the statute of limitations for claims to six years after the issue arose or six months after the effective date of the settlement, whichever is later. Consumers who prevail in arbitration will be awarded $6,000 in attorneys’ fees, while those who lose will be able to appeal the finding to a second panel. Ford will receive no fees or appeals rights under the agreement. Class members who believe they have either been improperly charged for repairs or denied repairs that should have been covered under Ford’s new vehicle limited warranty can also pursue these claims through a more limited arbitration process.

Ford will cover the cost and if the consumer is successful, they will receive free repairs or warranty extensions and be reimbursed for out-of-pocket costs. The Plaintiffs are also seeking to appoint 18 class representatives who will each receive between $1,000 and $10,000, separate and apart from any benefits they get as part of the settlement class. Capstone Law APC wants to be named lead class counsel, with Berger & Montague PC and Zimmerman Law Offices PC as class counsel. Ford has agreed to pay up to $8.9 million in attorneys’ fees and costs.

The proposed class is represented by Jordan L. Lurie, Tarek H. Zohdy, Cody R. Padgett and Karen L. Wallace of Capstone Law, Russell D. Paul of Berger & Montague and Thomas A. Zimmerman Jr. of Zimmerman Law. The case is Omar Vargas, et al., v. Ford Motor Co. (case number 2:12-cv-08388) in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California.

Source: Law360.com

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