Ford Fuel Economy Lawsuit : Court Rejects Appeal

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Ford Fuel Economy Lawsuit

In a surprising turn of events, the U.S. Supreme Court has made a decisive ruling, dashing the hopes of consumers who sought to resurrect their allegations of deceptive advertising and manipulated fuel economy tests against Ford Motor Co. for their F-150 and Ranger pickups. This case has ignited a contentious dispute over the authority of federal regulators concerning vehicle fuel economy estimates.

Ford Fuel Economy Lawsuit : Consumers’ Bid Denied

The highest court in the land has officially declined a petition for certiorari from truck owners and lessees. These plaintiffs have been fighting for justice in multidistrict litigation (MDL) proceedings. Their legal battle aimed to expose Ford for duping customers into paying a premium for trucks that ended up guzzling more fuel than initially promised.

Disappointment After En Banc Rehearing Denial

This legal saga took a significant twist when the Sixth Circuit dismissed the MDL case in April. Truck owners were not ready to accept defeat, so they sought an en banc rehearing petition. The Sixth Circuit, however, rejected their plea in June, leaving them with no choice but to turn to the Supreme Court.

Fueling the Dispute: Preemption Claims

At the heart of the controversy lies the assertion that the plaintiffs’ claims conflicted with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) authority to set fuel economy ratings. According to the Sixth Circuit panel, these drivers put forth “fraud on the agency” claims that were inherently preempted by federal law.

Legal Complexity: Express and Implied Preemption

The plaintiffs contended that their case had been fundamentally misunderstood. They argued that their claims could indeed overcome express preemption and implied conflict preemption. The district court, presided over by U.S. District Judge Sean F. Cox, had held that the Environmental Policy and Conservation Act (EPCA) governed estimated fuel economy testing and disclosure requirements. This act allowed automakers to choose between two methods of calculating fuel economy, and it was enforced by the Federal Trade Commission and the EPA.

 Ford Fuel Economy Lawsuit :  A Questionable Precedent

The petitioners took issue with the panel’s reliance on the Supreme Court’s 2001 decision in Buckman Co. v. Plaintiffs’ Legal Committee. In this precedent, the court had dealt with injury claims related to orthopedic bone screws reviewed and approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The plaintiffs argued that the Sixth Circuit had wrongly embraced Ford’s recharacterization of their consumer fraud claims as “fraud-on-the-FDA” claims.

  Ford Fuel Economy Lawsuit : Consumer Rights at Stake

The drivers emphasized that their case aimed to hold Ford accountable for violating state deceptive advertising laws. These laws were meant to prevent companies from misrepresenting or omitting crucial information about fuel economy testing methods. The outcome was false fuel economy ratings on the window stickers of new and leased vehicles.

Allegations of Manipulated Testing

The crux of the matter revolved around Ford’s alleged manipulation of “road load” factors. These factors, measuring elements such as aerodynamic drag and friction, were reportedly distorted during vehicle certification testing. This manipulation led to inflated miles-per-gallon fuel economy ratings for certain Ford F-150 and Ford Ranger trucks. These false figures were then printed on the Monroney stickers displayed on new cars, perpetuating a deceptive image of fuel efficiency.

Legal Standoff: Ford’s Defense

Ford’s defense throughout this legal battle has been consistent. They maintained that the drivers lacked the legal standing to sue and had suffered no cognizable injuries. Fuel economy disclosure obligations, they argued, were set by federal law, and states were barred from imposing different requirements unless they exactly matched the federal standards.

An End to the Battle?

Ford argued that the drivers received precisely what they had bargained for—vehicles with fuel economy estimates mandated by the EPA. They asserted that there was no guarantee of specific real-world fuel economy performance.

Ford Fuel Economy Lawsuit  :Legal Odyssey

This complex legal battle had its origins in August 2019 when the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation consolidated multiple consumer suits against Ford. These suits emerged after Ford revealed a criminal investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice in April 2019. The investigation was related to Ford’s emissions certification process and specifically focused on “road load estimations, analytical modeling, and coastdown testing.”

Ford Fuel Economy Lawsuit  : A Sudden End

In a twist of fate, Ford announced in February 2021 that the Department of Justice had closed its investigation without taking any action.

No Comments from Legal Representatives

As the Supreme Court rendered its decision, counsel for the drivers remained silent, offering no comments. Ford representatives were also not available for immediate comment.

Legal Battle Continues

The battle may have ended in the Supreme Court, but the fight over Ford’s alleged fuel economy deception is far from over. For now, the consumers’ quest for justice faces a formidable roadblock, leaving many perplexed about the complexities of the law and the power of federal regulations.