Reuters - March 31, 2005

SAN FRANCISCO -- A legal claim against Ford Motor Co. over allegedly defective engine parts can proceed as a class action lawsuit, a federal appeals court ruled on Thursday.

The suit focuses on plastic intake manifolds in some Ford cars. The plaintiffs said Ford knew the plastic intake manifold could crack as early as 1995; its use was discontinued in 2002.

Ford challenged the effort to make the dispute into a class action, which allows one or more people to sue on behalf of a larger group. The U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals denied Ford's appeal of a lower court decision granting class action certification.

"Ford claims that it is being forced into the prospect of an 'all or nothing' class trial in which well over 100,000 class members will be collectively seeking an award approaching or exceeding $100 million dollars in damages and attorneys' fees," a three-judge panel ruled.

"Ford has made no showing that it lacks the resources to defend this case to a conclusion and appeal if necessary or that doing so would 'run the risk of ruinous liability,'" said the decision upholding a lower court's grant of class action status.

"Although the instant lawsuit is definitely more than a mere unpleasantry, the impact of the class certification alone does not support an appeal. Further, the district court did not abuse its discretion in finding that, absent a class action, class plaintiffs would have no meaningful redress against Ford."