Commercial truck dealers who claim they were overcharged by Ford Motor Company have been awarded a $2 billion judgment by an Ohio state court.
The class action suit alleged that the “CPA program”, offering commercial truck dealers unpublished discounts on Ford vehicles, was deceptive and actually caused 3,100 dealers to be overcharged by the automaker.
Attorney James Lowe of the Cleveland, Ohio law firm of Lowe, Eklund, Wakefield and Mulvihill said, “This was hotly contested but the law and the facts are what they are.” Lowe’s firm brought the initial lawsuit on behalf of lead plaintiff Westgate Ford Truck Sales, based in Youngstown, Ohio in 2002.
In his decision, Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas Judge Peter J. Corrigan said the program overcharged dealers by $800 million for approximately 475,000 medium- and heavy-duty trucks, bulldozers and tractor-trailers.
The judgment includes $1.2 billion in interest and was predicated on a formula used by a jury in arriving at a $4.5 million judgment awarded to Westgate Ford last February.
Ford Motor Company has said that it will appeal the court’s decision. Ford spokesman John Stoll said, “We believe that the trial court committed significant legal errors. We continue to believe that the CPA program caused no harm to our dealers. Rather, it brought significant benefit to the dealers.”
In 1998, Ford sold its commercial medium- and heavy-truck division to Germany’s Daimler AG.
In its annual report to investors earlier this year, Ford has said that it could suffer “substantial” damage if the court ruled in favor of the plaintiffs and employed the same damages formula used in the February decision. Ford earned $6.6 billion in profits last year.
Attorney Lowe said the COA program offered discounts on commercial vehicles to dealers who requested them based on their profitability, and said it violated the law by offering dealers unpublished prices.
According to a New York Times article, citing Lowe, Eklund, Wakefield and Mulvihill’s Web site, Lowe and two other attorneys previously prevailed in a case against Ford. In that case, the plaintiff, a woman who was severely injured when her Explorer SUV was rear-ended, was awarded $10.4 million.
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