Academic journal article Defense Counsel Journal

Ford-Firestone Class Certifications Nixed

Academic journal article Defense Counsel Journal

Ford-Firestone Class Certifications Nixed

Article excerpt

The Seventh Circuit also reversed a district court's certification of two nationwide class actions that arose from the Ford Explorer's well-publicized problems with Firestone tires in the late 1990s. In re Bridgestone/Firestone Inc. Tires Products Liability Litigation, 288 F.3d 1012 (2002).

Ford and Firestone took an interlocutory appeal from the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana's decision certifying the two separate classes. The U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation had transferred numerous lawsuits to the Indiana court for consolidated pretrial proceedings. The suits before the court were filed by persons who either own or previously owned a Ford Explorer or Firestone tires that have so far performed properly. They sought compensation for "the risk of failure," which was measured by the diminished resale value of their vehicles and in their mental stress.

Recognizing that one uniform law would be essential to a class action certification, the district court held that the law of the state where each defendant is headquartered would control the class litigation on the ground that state is where the products were designed and the important decisions about disclosures and sales made. Finding that all the litigants could be governed by the same legal rules, the court certified two nationwide class actions.

The first class included anyone who owns or previously owned a Ford Explorer produced between model year 1991 through 2001, while the second class included all persons who owned or leased one of six particular models of Firestone tires since 1990. More than 60 million tires and three million vehicles fell into the class definitions. The ruling meant that all claims by the Explorer class of claimants would be resolved under Michigan law, the headquarters of Ford Motor Co., and claims by the tire class would be resolved under Tennessee law, the state of the headquarters of Firestone. …

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