Gibbs Law Group Partner Wins Reversal of Denial of Class Certification in Ford Freestyle Case

March 2, 2015

On February 10, 2015, Gibbs Law Group Partner David Stein appeared before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals and urged the panel to reverse a district court decision denying class certification in a case against Ford concerning Freestyle vehicles. The plaintiff, Gene Edwards, alleges that Ford sold and serviced 2005-2007 Freestyle vehicles without informing consumers of a known defect in the electronic throttle control system that causes the vehicles to surge while idling, or accelerate unexpectedly in both drive and reverse.

Following oral argument, the three-judge panel reversed the district court’s decision and remanded the case back to district court. The Ninth Circuit ruled that the existence of a defect posed a common question for the class, since  while “[i]ndividual factors, such as driving conditions, may affect surging, … they do not affect whether the Freestyle was sold with [the] defect.” The Ninth Circuit also held that because California uses an objective “reasonable person” standard, the inquiry about the defect’s importance would be “the same for every class member.”

The Ninth Circuit’s decision comes after four years of litigation, following the initial filing of the complaint in April 2011. The plaintiff filed a motion to certify a class of Freestyle owners in February 2012. In June 2012, the motion was denied by the district court, which held that class certification would be inappropriate because class members would be required to individually prove that their vehicles were defective, and that prior knowledge of this defect would have prevented them from buying the vehicle.

Plaintiff petitioned the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals for permission to appeal the district court decision.  In October 2012, the Ninth Circuit granted the plaintiff’s request for appeal.

Ninth Circuit: Ford’s Freestyle repair and reimbursement program doesn’t moot the case

One month later, Ford implemented a repair and reimbursement program that provided an extended warranty for idle surge repairs; offered refunds for repair costs previously paid out of pocket by Freestyle owners; and gave notice of the extended warranty to all other Freestyle owners.  Although Ford argued that its program mooted the case, the Ninth Circuit ruled the lawsuit “is not moot … because Edwards seeks relief beyond that provided by [Ford’s] program, including reimbursement of the money consumers spent on the Freestyles or on extended warranties.”

The case, Edwards v. Ford Motor Company, is currently pending in the United States District Court for the Southern District of California before Judge Michael M. Anello.

Speak to an auto defect lawyer

If you own a 2005-2007 Ford Freestyle that surges while idling, you may be eligible to participate in the lawsuit. Contact our auto defect attorneys toll-free by calling (866) 981-4800. Consultations are free. For updates on the status of Freestyle litigation, visit the case webpage, or fill out the form to the right and request to be added to the Freestyle mailing list.