Appeals court finds lower court correctly tossed out Ford lawsuit that alleges fuel tanks are faulty

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Ford Fuel Tank Delamination Lawsuit Is Over
Appeals court finds lower court correctly tossed out Ford lawsuit that alleges fuel tanks are faulty

— A Ford fuel tank delamination lawsuit is completely over even though the plaintiff alleges 2001-2010 Ford F-Series Super Duty trucks and E-Series vans have fuel tank linings that flake and peel.

According to plaintiff Galo Goba, Ford knew the gas tanks were defective but concealed that knowledge from customers.

Coba purchased two Ford 2006 F-350 Super Duty 6-liter diesel trucks, the first in October 2006 and the second in March 2007. By March 2009, both trucks allegedly started showing signs of fuel tank delamination.

According to Coba, "the engines would misfire, the trucks lacked power when driven up hills, the fuel filters were contaminated with fuel-tank debris, and the fuel systems rusted."

A Ford dealership replaced the fuel tanks and fuel filters in both trucks for free, but the plaintiff claims the trucks had the same problems over and over again, needing additional fuel tank replacements each time.

Coba says he replaced the fuel tank twice in his older truck and three times in his newer truck and spent thousands of dollars because several tank replacements occurred after the warranties expired.

The lawsuit was filed in March 2012 alleging Ford never adequately repaired or replaced the gas tanks in the trucks because the replacement fuel tanks were just as defective as the previous tanks. In addition, the plaintiff says Ford knew the delamination problems wouldn't be permanently repaired by replacing the fuel tanks.

District Court Judge Kevin McNulty ruled in favor of Ford and against the plaintiff on all claims, but the plaintiff appealed the ruling to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit.

The district court judge agreed with Ford concerning a breach of express warranty claim and the new vehicle limited warranty which says Ford will “repair, replace, or adjust all parts on [his] vehicle that are defective in factory-supplied materials or workmanship.”

The judge ruled the alleged gas tank defect at the heart of the lawsuit was outside the scope of Ford's warranty. According to the judge, the warranty only covers defects in “materials or workmanship,” not to design defects. The appeals court agreed.

The judge also found that because the plaintiff didn't have any legal right to repair or replacement of his fuel tanks under Ford's warranty, the claim for breach of implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing was rejected.

The plaintiff also accused Ford of violating the New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act which says a plaintiff must establish “that the defendant [Ford] engaged in an unlawful practice that caused an ascertainable loss to the plaintiff.”

The plaintiff alleged Ford knew but didn't disclose the fuel tanks suffered from design defects that caused delamination, and even if Ford did not know the cause of the delamination, the automaker still failed to disclose the risk.

The appeals court agreed with the district court that the plaintiff failed to provide sufficient evidence of Ford’s knowledge of the design defect, and “the information about the risk of delamination that Ford had available to it at the time [Coba purchased his trucks] was not material.”

Although the plaintiff alleges Ford knew of the gas tank problems, the appeals court found no reasonable jury could find Ford had that knowledge. The court referenced internal emails at Ford which show that as early as 2005, Ford knew the problem had existed for several years and the automaker was investigating its cause.

But the appeals court found the evidence didn't indicate Ford knew the problem was caused by the design of its tanks. During the entire relevant time, Ford suspected the problem was the improper use of fuel with high biodiesel concentrations. This seemed like a logical conclusion because of the geographic clustering of delamination complaints in Brazil.

According to court documents, in September 2006, one month before Coba purchased his first Ford vehicle, a meeting of Ford managers and engineers concluded “[t]he cause for damaged fuel tanks is biodiesel (both refined and the home brewed type) with bio concentrations greater than 20% (Ford only authorizes concentrations up to 5%).

Even by February 2017, biodiesel fuel remained the prime suspect just before Coba bought his second truck, as apparent in the message Ford then sent to dealers explaining fuel containing biodiesel at high concentrations might cause delamination. Ford also told dealerships about the development of a more biodiesel-resistant A35 coating released that month.

The appeals court agreed with the district court judge who ruled there was no genuine dispute that at the time Coba bought his trucks, Ford “believ[ed] that the problem was due to instances of contaminated fuel, affecting a limited number of tanks, rather than a defectively designed tank.

The lawsuit was originally filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey - Coba, et al., v. Ford Motor Company.

The plaintiff is represented by Capstone Law.


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