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Tire case plaintiffs lose class-action status

Dolphan

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Tire case plaintiffs lose class-action status

By David Kiley, USA TODAY

DETROIT — A federal appeals court Thursday overturned a lower court decision that would have made owners of 3 million Ford Explorers and 15 million Firestone tires plaintiffs in a $1 billion class-action lawsuit.

The Seventh Court of Appeals in Chicago said the decision by District Court Judge Sarah Barker of Indianapolis was faulty and the number of plaintiffs was unmanageable.

The class-action lawsuit was filed after millions of Firestone tires, most on Explorer sport-utility vehicles, were recalled because they could lose tread, causing the SUV to roll over.

The plaintiffs would have been Explorer and Firestone owners who had no property damage or physical injuries from accidents.

Instead, plaintiff lawyers said, they suffered financial loss for paying more than they should have for vehicles that could roll over and tires that could lose tread. The lawyers charged that the products were defective and that the companies knew it.

Millions of the 60 million tires involved in the lawsuit have been recalled, either by Bridgestone/Firestone or Ford Motor.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration finished its investigation of Firestone tires after forcing Bridgestone/Firestone to recall an additional 3 million. NHTSA rejected a request by the tiremaker to investigate the Explorer for a design flaw.

The appeals court said Barker had no basis for applying consumer protection laws from Michigan, where Ford is headquartered, and Tennessee, where Bridgestone/Firestone is located, to a national class action. She did that because no national consumer protection laws apply.

The court said regulation by NHTSA and lawsuits by people who were injured "is far superior to a suit by millions of uninjured buyers."

It also said the case "is not manageable as a class action, even on a statewide basis."

Despite that — and the fact that most states don't allow non-injury class actions — Don Barrett of Lexington, Miss., the lead plaintiff attorney, said Thursday that statewide class-action lawsuits could be filed as early as next week.

"They can deal with a 50-headed monster now, instead of one," he said of Ford and Bridgestone/Firestone.

As for the appeals court warning that the case was unmanageable on a state level, too, Barrett said, "This country is a mosaic of laws and courts," adding that the federal judges can't speak for the states.

John Beisner, an outside lawyer for Ford, disagreed. "I think the court effectively closed the door on the class-action chapter of all this," he said.

In a statement, Bridgestone/Firestone said the decision "articulates why these cases are not suitable in either federal or state courts."

The companies still face hundreds of personal-injury and wrongful-death lawsuits, which were not included in the class-action case.
 




leenjen

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i think that ford would've won the case anyway if it was a class action. how would they prove a design flaw in the explorer. there are millions of explorers on the road. only a small percentage rolled over. and most of the rollovers are driver error due to overcorrecting or panicing.

but i do think it sucks that the book value of explorers dropped so much:(
 




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