Ninth Circuit sends sunroof class action to lower court after Ford owner alleged the glass broke.

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Ford Sunroof Class Action Lawsuit Alive on Appeal
Ninth Circuit sends sunroof class action to lower court after Ford owner alleged the glass broke.

— A Ford sunroof class action lawsuit is back in business after the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit reversed the dismissal ruling from a lower district court.

According to the sunroof lawsuit, the panoramic glass can suddenly explode and rain shards of glass onto Ford vehicle occupants.

The Ford sunroof class action alleges plaintiff Jessica Beaty was driving her 2013 Ford Escape in 2017 when the sunroof shattered for no apparent reason.

The plaintiff says the sunroof glass fell on her and her infant daughter and Ford allegedly knew it could happen.

The panoramic sunroofs appeared in Ford vehicles in 2007, but Ford allegedly soon began receiving complaints the sunroofs were exploding.

Ford argues customer complaints don't prove the automaker knew about any sunroof problems. According to the automaker, the plaintiffs improperly relied on customer complaints that post-dated their purchase, involved non-panoramic sunroofs or were determined to have been caused by external impacts to the glass.

In addition, the plaintiffs don't cite an “unusually high” number of relevant, pre-sale complaints that may have put Ford on notice of a sunroof defect.

Ford also says the calculated sunroof failure rate is only 0.05%, which is one sunroof out of every 2,000 vehicles. Ford argues the sunroof failure rate is equal or lower to shattered sunroofs in vehicles from other automakers.

The district court judge dismissed the Ford sunroof class action lawsuit by finding it "defies common sense to claim that a manufacturer must disclose every single failure of any component or part to every potential purchaser, even if the failure is minor and not dangerous, or even if it has only happened a handful of times."

The judge also said it was not reasonable for Ford to warn customers about components that may or may not have problems one day.

In dismissing the entire sunroof class action lawsuit, the judge agreed with Ford that when the plaintiff's sunroof broke the warranty had already expired.

And even if the vehicle had still been covered by the warranty, the judge pointed out how the warranty clearly says, "glass may chip, scratch, crack or break, and that any such damage is not covered by the warranty."

Ford Sunroof Class Action Lawsuit Appeal

In a sign of how contradicting courts can be based on the same laws and same arguments, the Ninth Circuit sent the case back to the district court which had dismissed the lawsuit.

The appeals court found that pre-sale customer complaints to both Ford and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) do create a triable issue as to whether Ford knew its sunroofs were prone to spontaneously explode.

The Ninth Circuit also ruled sunroof complaints made directly to Ford "are circumstantial evidence that the defendant is on notice of the defect."

Ford argues even if sunroof complaints are enough for a juror to conclude Ford had knowledge of sunroof problems, the claims made by the plaintiffs fail because the complaints don't apply to their specific Ford model and model year.

But the appeals court disagrees.

“[W]hen a plaintiff attempts to introduce evidence of other accidents” to prove the defendant’s “notice of [a] defect,” “[a] showing of substantial similarity is required.”

The appeals court says it must view "the evidence in the light most favorable to the Beatys," which means a "reasonable juror could find that Ford knew that the PSR [panoramic sunroof] defect would persist in the substantially similar PSRs installed in the 2013 Ford Escape."

“If [Ford’s expert] said one thing and [the Beatys’ expert] said another on the same subject, it is the role of the jury, not a court on summary judgment, to determine the facts.”

According to the panoramic sunroof class action lawsuit, these Ford models are equipped with defective sunroofs.

  • 2007-present Ford Edge
  • 2009-present Ford Focus
  • 2010-present Ford Fusion
  • 2011-present Ford Explorer
  • 2009-present Ford Flex
  • 2011-present Ford F-150
  • 2009-2014 Ford Mustang
  • 2008-present Ford Escape
  • 2014-present Ford Transit Connect
  • 2013-present Ford C-Max
  • 2007-present Lincoln MKX
  • 2009-2015 Lincoln MKS
  • 2013-present Lincoln MKZ
  • 2010-present Lincoln MKT
  • 2010-2011 Mercury Milan
  • 2010-2011 Mercury Montego

The Ford sunroof class action lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington: Beaty, et al., v. Ford Motor Company.

The plaintiffs are represented by the Terrell Marshall Law Group, Simmons Hanly Conroy LLC, and Greg Coleman Law PC.


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