The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

World, nation, state

May 5, 2012

Ohio court: Judge erred in $2B award against Ford

CLEVELAND —  An appeals court this week has reversed a decision ordering Ford Motor Co. to pay nearly $2 billion in damages to thousands of commercial truck dealerships, sending the case back to the lower courts for a new trial.

The decision Thursday by the 8th Ohio Court of Appeals overturned last year’s ruling that said the automaker had violated dealer agreements and overcharged for commercial trucks over an 11-year period. It determined that a trial judge in Cleveland had abused his discretion in excluding possible evidence in Ford’s favor.

The appeals court called the contract in question “ambiguous” and said it can be interpreted in different ways. It said a jury, which originally only heard certain arguments because some were excluded, should have heard all key arguments in the case.

The appeals court also ruled that Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Judge Peter Corrigan erred in not allowing Ford attorneys to challenge expert testimony from the plaintiffs when it was determining damages in the case.

The class-action lawsuit, brought on by Westgate Ford Truck Sales of Youngstown in 2002, included dealers who purchased a series 600 truck or higher from Ford from 1987 to 1997. The lawsuit accused the automaker of violating its contract by failing to reveal that price concessions were given to some dealers.

The jury awarded $4.5 million in damages to Westgate, to which about $6.7 million in interest was added. The Dearborn, Mich.-based Ford later appealed.

The $2 billion award, which included a judgment of about $781 million and about $1.2 billion in interest, covered more than 3,000 dealerships around the country and about 474,000 trucks.

Attorney James Lowe, who represents some of the dealers, said he hadn’t seen the decision and declined to comment Friday.

 

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