Ford Motor Co. is welcoming an appellate court decision overturning a $2 billion ruling against the automaker for allegedly breaching contracts with local pickup truck dealerships over 11 years. In its decision, released May 3, the appellate court agreed with Ford attorneys that the trial court wrongly excluded certain evidence and that the contracts in question were “ambiguous.”
Nevada residents may have heard about this long-running litigation. The plaintiffs in the lawsuit were car dealerships who sold Ford trucks series 600 or higher between 1987 and 1997. They contended that Ford overcharged the dealerships for the vehicles and committed several breaches of the contracts between the plaintiffs and the company. They filed suit as a class in 2002, accusing Ford of breach of contract.
During the trial, the judge prevented that some of the arguments the parties wanted to present to the jury from being argued in court. Once the jury found for the plaintiffs and was determining damages, Ford attorneys wanted to challenge certain expert testimony from plaintiff witnesses, but the judge would not allow them to. The jury awarded $2 billion to the dealerships, which included $781 million in damages and around $1.2 billion in interest.
The appellate court reversed the decision based on those decisions. They also found that the contract that was the basis for the lawsuit contained “ambiguous” language.
It is not clear if the dealerships would appeal the decision, though it would not be surprising with that much money at stake. An attorney for some of the plaintiff businesses said he had not had a chance to review the ruling.
Source: The Washington Post, “Ohio appeals court says trial judge erred in $2B award to Ford truck dealers, sends case back,” May 4, 2012