A California district court judge has denied a motion for summary judgment in a Ford defective transmissions lawsuit and will hold a Daubert hearing to determine the reliability of the plaintiff’s automotive technician expert.
The Defective Transmission Lawsuits
Dozens of plaintiffs filed separate lawsuits against Ford Motor Company, alleging that the power shift transmissions in some Ford Focus and Ford Fiesta models were prone to delayed acceleration and downshifting. The plaintiffs claimed that some of these vehicles have crashed.
Specifically, the lawsuits alleged that transmissions in the 2012-2016 Ford Focus and the 2011-2016 Ford Fiesta are defective. The lawsuits claim that dual-clutch DPS6 PowerShift transmissions tend to shudder, slip, jerk, hesitate and suffer other problems.
These lawsuits were consolidated into one multi-district litigation case held before U.S. District Judge Andre Birotte Jr. in the Central District of California.
Motion for Summary Judgment
In the case of Mary Cannon, Ford filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing that the plaintiff failed to respond to written discovery, could not prove claims for intentional or negligent misrepresentation, and could not prove any alleged transmission defects. Ford also argued that claims for punitive damages should be dismissed because plaintiffs did not “have clear and convincing evidence that any act that harmed her was committed, authorized, or ratified by a Ford officer, director, or managing agent.”
Judge Birotte denied the motion.
Daubert Hearing Scheduled
Ford has argued that the plaintiffs’ expert witnesses are unreliable. In the case of Christi Brown, Ford filed a motion to exclude plaintiff’s proposed expert, automotive technician Randall Bounds.
Ford wrote, “…Bounds…has experience fixing cars, but he is not qualified to opine on value and safety, and his ‘opinions’ are nothing more than pure guesswork with no valid basis.”
Ford continued, “His opinions are not supported by any facts or analysis, and he does not cite a single source to support whatever ‘methodology’ he applied…. In addition to being unreliable, his opinions would not be helpful to the jury, as they amount to little more than thinly veiled legal conclusions on ultimate issues and are not based on any specialized knowledge or expertise. Bounds does not come close to employing the ‘level of intellectual rigor that [Rule] 702 requires’ for the admission of expert testimony.”
Ford argued that Bounds does not have the scientific knowledge that is required by Daubert to be an expert witness.
Under Daubert, an expert witness may only offer opinion testimony if “(1) the testimony is based upon sufficient facts or data; (2) the testimony is the product of reliable principles and methods; and (3) the witness has applied the principles and methods to the facts of the case.”
Ford argues that to be admissible under Daubert, the testimony must be given by an expert witness who is qualified “by knowledge, skill, experience, training, or education” —and that Bounds lacks the requisite scientific knowledge.
Judge Birotte is scheduled to hold the Daubert hearing on October 24, 2019 to determine if Bounds and other proposed experts will be allowed to testify at trial.