A Ford F-150 transmission lawsuit alleges the trucks won’t shift into reverse gear unless the ignitions are shut off and turned back on.
According to the lawsuit, the transmissions have defects that cause the trucks to consistently fail to engage reverse gear when drivers shift to reverse. The plaintiff claims he was told the reverse gear failures are a “normal characteristic” of the transmissions.
However, the problem allegedly creates serious safety hazards because the trucks are not fit for ordinary use.
Plaintiff Steven Schneider filed the lawsuit after having transmission problems in his leased 2016 Ford F-150 he claims fails to shift into reverse gear. The proposed class-action lawsuit includes all consumers in California who purchased or leased a Ford F-150 after December 14, 2012.
Mr. Schneider says after shifting into reverse gear from a dead stop and while slightly pressing the accelerator pedal, the truck quickly hit more than 3,000 RPM even though the truck wouldn’t move. But after turning off the ignition and restarting the engine, the truck finally went into reverse.
The plaintiff says he took the F-150 to a dealer in February 2017 and was told Ford knew about the problems with reverse gear but also said it was “normal.”
According to the lawsuit, Ford issued a special service message in 2015 admitting the reverse problem exists in 2015-2017 models but told technicians “no repair should be attempted.” In addition, F-150 drivers were advised to “cycle the ignition on and off” to fix the problem.
According to Schneider, the Ford dealership followed the service message and didn’t attempt to repair his truck.
The plaintiff claims his truck has malfunctioned while he was making sharp turns as he found his truck stuck in the road because he couldn’t get it into reverse. He says the problem has occurred 11 times in less than a year of the first incident, creating too much of a risk that Ford allegedly calls “normal.”
Ford has allegedly concealed known defects while advertising the F-150 trucks as “Ford Tough” even though the plaintiff claims the trucks should have never been sold.
Ford filed a notice of removal to federal court and asserted based on Schneider’s restitution request that more than $5 million was at stake in the class-action.
However, the district court disagreed by finding under California’s Song-Beverly Act, any “restitution award would be equal to the F-150s’ purchase price offset by any decrease in the truck’s value attributable to the buyer’s use before the defect was discovered.”
Ford appealed the district court’s order remanding the class-action to state court by turning to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.
The Ninth Circuit ruled the district court questioned Ford’s estimate but it did not give Ford the opportunity to provide additional evidence. That evidence includes Ford’s estimate that the amount in question could exceed $3 billion dollars, an amount far above the required $5 million necessary to enter as a proposed class-action in federal court.
The automaker provided evidence that more than 68,000 new 2015-2017 F-150s were sold in California at an average MSRP of $45,498.94.
In other words, while the district court found Ford couldn’t lose $5 million if it lost the lawsuit, Ford concluded a restitution award in favor of F-150 owners and lessees could exceed $3.1 billion. That’s 620 times the $5 million required as a basis for federal jurisdiction.
The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court ruling and sent the case back to the lower court to proceed.
The Ford F-150 transmission lawsuit was originally filed in the San Luis Obispo Superior Court – Steven Schneider, et al., v. Ford Motor Company, et al.
The plaintiff is represented by Finkelstein & Krinsk.