New Class Action Suit Filed Against Ford Defective Paint Alleged
(Item 1 from file: 655) DIALOG(R)File 655:BNA Daily News (c) 1996 Bur. of Natl Affairs Inc. All rts. reserv. 00816497 BNA PRODUCT LIABILITY DAILY December 04, 1995 Motor Vehicles PLAINTIFFS FILE CLASS ACTION AGAINST FORD, ALLEGE COMPANY USED DEFECTIVE PAINT PROCESS ST. PAUL, MN (BNA) --
For Information on The Class Action, Call: 1-800-506-5152
Four plaintiffs filed a putative class action against Ford Motor Co. in federal court Oct. 30, alleging a defective painting process used on recreational vehicles and trucks caused the paint to peel (Brewbaker v. Ford Motor Co., DC Minn, No. CIV 3-95-972, 10/30/95). The plaintiffs seek to represent all U.S. residents who purchased Mustangs, Bronco IIs, Broncos, Rangers, and F-Series vehicles manufactured during the during the mid-1980s to early 1990s.
The class could number one million, the complaint said. According to the suit, Ford negligently changed its painting process for the vehicles during the mid-1980s. Ford's conduct was so extreme, reckless, and outrageous that it constituted intentional infliction of emotional distress, they alleged.
Ford spokesman Jon Harmon said the company believes the Minnesota suit is duplicative of other lawsuits against it and may seek to have the cases consolidated. Ford does not believe class actions are appropriate for handling customer complaints, Harmon said.
The company has a system in place for customers dissatisfied with its products and would prefer that customers use it. Three-Step Painting Process According to the plaintiffs, Ford used a three-step painting process on all its vehicles until the early 1980s. Electrocoat was first applied to the vehicles, then a spray primer, then an enamel color coat. In an attempt to cut its costs, and without adequate testing, the company decided to eliminate the spray primer process at several production facilities, the complaint alleged.
The suit also names PPG Industries, which manufactured and promoted a electrocoating product called Uniprime. According to the complaint, PPG maintained that Uniprime eliminates the need for a primer layer and encouraged Ford to change its paint process. Between 1984 and 1986, Ford converted plants where the named vehicles were manufactured to the two-stage painting process. However, most Ford automobile manufacturing plants continued using the three-step process, the suit stated.
By 1986, Ford knew the elimination of the primer layer was leading to widespread paint peeling, the complaint said, but the company ignored the indications. Ford did not begin to investigate the peeling paint problem until 1989, the suit alleged. The company determined that ultraviolet light from sunlight penetrated the color coat, destroying the adhesion between the electrocoat and the color coat, the suit contended. Campaign Of Concealment Ford did not reintroduce the three-step painting process until the early 1990s, the complaint said. In the meantime, Ford continued to make and sell vehicles with the paint defect. "Given Ford's inability or unwillingness to immediately eliminate the root cause of the paint peel defect, and the potential billion dollar financial liability if the defect became public knowledge, Ford embarked upon a scheme to conceal the defect," the complaint said.
The company attempted to "buy off" all consumers who complained about peeling paint and embarked on a campaign to conceal the defect from the Federal Trade Commission and various state attorneys general, the suit maintained. The suit claimed that Ford and PPG were negligent in their painting of the vehicles, that they negligently misrepresented the paint application process, and that they breached both express and implied warranties. The suit also asserts counts of fraud and deceit, and breach of the Magnuson-Moss Act.
The suit seeks compensatory and punitive damages and injunctive and declaratory relief. It asked that Ford be ordered to pay the cost of notifying the class of the defect and that it create a fund to pay for all corrective expenses and damages. The plaintiffs are represented by Robert R. Hopper, Charles S. Zimmerman, and Barry G. Reed of Zimmerman Reed in Minneapolis. ----------------------------------------------------------------- Regards, Patrick Assouad