Thousands Reject Ford Motor Company Class Action Settlement
Sept. 13, 2017—Sept. 5, 2017 was the final day owners of the 2011-16 Ford Fiesta and 2012-16 Focus vehicles equipped with a PowerShift transmission could opt-out of a controversial class action settlement. 4,500 owners opted out between July 5 and Sept. 5 through Stern Law, PLLC, a part of nearly 12,500 owners who have rejected the class action terms to instead pursue their legal rights under a mass action suit led by the Stern Law firm.
"Utilizing federal consumer protection laws, we will file suit on behalf of the 12,500 claimants by month's end. We will be seeking a buyback, damages for the abnormal depreciation, out-of-pocket repair costs, inconvenience, lost wages and more," said Ken Stern, co-lead attorney. "Our firm's mass action represents a way for clients to seek compensation without worrying about attorney fees or losing any part of their award for representation, as Ford pays all attorney fees."
Opting out as many as 4,500 owners in a two-month period was part of Stern Law's larger effort in suing Ford though its mass action. More than 25,000 individuals reached out to Stern Law. However, even working round-the-clock, the short two-month opt-out period severely limited the number of participants. Stern estimates that thousands more would have joined, but time simply ran out.
"Having heard from those 25,000 owners, we know we could have easily signed several thousand more if we had more time," Stern said. "The limitation of a two month opt-out period unfairly punished owners that have already been mistreated by Ford," Stern notes.
The main criticism that Novi, Mich.– based Stern Law, and other attorneys nationwide, have with the class action settlement relates to its compensation structure. While owners of these vehicles have historically had success with their claims in the courts, whether through state Lemon Law proceedings or settlements, those who did not opt-out of Ford's class action settlement will now be forced into an arbitration setting to pursue damages for a buyback moving forward. This buyback effort was also tied to an "inconvenience" payout structure that misled many into believing they would receive compensation that, as Stern contends, is almost impossible for many to attain.
"When the Australian government, our 12,500 clients, and countless more that wanted to join the mass action, accuse Ford of deceptive practices regarding the transmission defects, a two month opt-out period is simply unacceptable," Stern said. "This unreasonably shortened opt-out period was likely intended to limit the number of those that would be able to opt-out, and thereby avoid the class action settlement. This will continue to punish Ford owners that have been misled and defrauded by Ford, as we've made clear in our complaint," he added.