U.S. District Judge Ronald B. Leighton granted Ford Motor Company’s (Ford) motion for a summary judgement in a lawsuit filed against the vehicle manufacturer by plaintiffs Jacob and Jessica Beaty. The Judge’s decision was filed in a Washington court yesterday. The Beaty’s, who originally filed the lawsuit in 2017, failed to prove an alleged defect in Ford Escape vehicles causes panoramic sunroofs to shatter, according to Leighton.
“Beaty cannot establish the elements of her fraudulent concealment or Washington Consumer Protection Act (CPA) claims against Ford as a matter of law: she cannot show that Ford knew of and failed to disclose a material defect. She cannot establish that any such failure caused her benefit-of-the-bargain damage. Ford’s Motion for Summary Judgment is granted and Beaty’s fraudulent concealment and CPA claims are dismissed with prejudice. All other pending motions are denied as moot,” a portion of the final ruling reads.
According to Leighton, in Washington plaintiffs claiming fraud must prove nine elements by clear, cogent, and convincing evidence. Elements that must be proven include: representation of an existing fact; materiality; falsity; the speaker’s knowledge of its falsity; intent of the speaker that it should be acted upon by the plaintiff; plaintiff’s ignorance of its falsity; plaintiff’s reliance on the truth of the representation; plaintiff’s right to rely upon it; and damages.
The Beaty’s, who, according to court documents, purchased a new 2013 Ford Escape with a “power panoramic vista roof” in September 2012, based their decision to buy the SUV on its safety features and panoramic sunroof. However, in February 2017 Jessica Beaty was driving home with the couple’s daughter in the backseat when the vehicle’s sunroof “spontaneously shattered,” causing scratches on both of their hands and faces, according to the original complaint. The Judge also highlighted the timing at which the Beaty’s purchased their vehicle in his decision, agreeing with Ford, because the couple purchased their vehicle shortly after the company introduced its new sunroof. Therefore, according to Leighton’s decision, the automaker could not have known that such a defect existed at the time.
Leighton also noted that the couple failed to overcome Ford’s suggestion that the alleged defect did not make its cars unsafe and occurred in only .05% of vehicles. According to Leighton, a company is only forced to disclose defects that pose a danger to users.
“It defies common sense to claim that a manufacturer must disclose every single failure of any component or part to every potential purchaser, even if the failure is minor and not dangerous, or even if it has only happened a handful of times,” said Leighton.