Appeals court saves Ford $2B -- for now

May 5, 2012 at 1:34 PM
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CLEVELAND, May 5 (UPI) -- A panel of judges in Ohio has returned a $2 billion class-action judgment against Ford Motor Co. to a lower court to hear Ford's full version of the story.

The Cleveland Plain Dealer reported Saturday the Cuyahoga County Common Pleas ruling in favor of Ford truck dealers was overturned with the appeals court reasoning Ford had not been able to present all the pertinent evidence about its contract with the dealers.

Dealers had claimed Ford was bound by contract to give all dealers the same discounts on trucks. The size of the settlement was huge, in part because the lawsuit, which was filed in 2001, covered the 10 years between 1987 and 1997, the newspaper said.

The suit was filed on behalf of 3,000 dealers who were awarded $800 million by the lower court, or $1,650 per truck sold during the decade the lawsuit covered. In addition, the court said Ford must pay $1.2 billion in interest penalties due to time delays.

The lower court ruled Ford had violated the agreement with dealers by not granting all of them equal discounts for truck sales. The appeals court, however, ruled there was ambiguity in the contract.

Any ambiguity was, essentially, too much ambiguity to allow the lower court judgment to stand, the appeals court said.

"Ford and (plaintiff) Westgate (Ford Truck Sales of Youngstown, Ohio), both present reasonable arguments," the appeals court ruled. However, as the contract's wording "is susceptible to more than one interpretation, we hold that it is ambiguous," the court said.

"We look forward to trying the case in front of a jury that will consider all of the evidence that was improperly excluded in the first trial," said Ford spokeswoman Marcey Evans.

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