Ford Can’t Stop Would-Be Class Action Over Exploding Sunroofs

By Bruce Kaufman

Ford Motor Co. failed to halt a would-be nationwide class action over vehicles with panoramic roofs that “spontaneously” shatter.

Plaintiff Jessica Beaty, owner of a 2013 Ford Escape Titanium, can continue her suit on behalf of owners of similarly affected vehicles, the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington ruled Jan. 16.

Ford argued Beaty couldn’t represent owners of 16 different models from Ford, Lincoln and Mercury, spanning eight model years, with sunroofs manufactured by different suppliers.

But Judge Ronald B. Leighton said the plaintiff has standing to continue the suit because the alleged sunroof defects are similar across lines, vehicles, model years, and component manufacturer.

Nor could Ford halt a claim under Washington’s Consumer Protection Act alleging it “concealed” the sunroof defect, and knowingly replaced shattered roofs with similarly defective parts.

“There are ample, plausible allegations that Ford knew of and actively failed to disclose the sunroofs’ deficiencies,” the court said in allowing the claim to continue.

Ford scored better on other claims. It convinced the court to halt, for now, those alleging it breached the implied warranty of merchantability, which guarantees an item is fit for its intended purpose, and express warranty, an additional guarantee against defects.

Those claims can be brought again, the court said.

Tens of thousands of Ford vehicles were sold with the alleged defect—inadequately tempered glass in the oversize panoramic sunroof, the suit said.

A similar suit against Ford, also on behalf of a would-be nationwide class, is pending in federal court in Missouri. Other manufacturers, including Volkswagen, Kia, Nissan, BMW, and Hyundai, face similar putative class actions.

Plaintiffs’ attorneys include Simmons Hanly Conroy. Defense attorneys include Alston & Bird.

The case is Beaty v. Ford Motor Co. , W.D. Wash., No. C17-5201RBL, 1/16/18 .

To contact the reporter on this story: Bruce Kaufman in Washington at bkaufman@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Steven Patrick at spatrick@bloomberglaw.com

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