458 F.3d 549 (6th Cir. 2006), 05-3545, Daffin v. Ford Motor Co.

Docket Nº:05-3545.
Citation:458 F.3d 549
Party Name:Patricia A. DAFFIN, on behalf of herself and all others similarly situated, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. FORD MOTOR COMPANY, Defendant-Appellant.
Case Date:August 18, 2006
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit
 
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Page 549

458 F.3d 549 (6th Cir. 2006)

Patricia A. DAFFIN, on behalf of herself and all others similarly situated, Plaintiff-Appellee,

v.

FORD MOTOR COMPANY, Defendant-Appellant.

No. 05-3545.

United States Court of Appeals, Sixth Circuit.

August 18, 2006

Argued: June 7, 2006.

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Southern District of Ohio at Cincinnati. No. 00-00458—Susan J. Dlott, District Judge.

Page 550

ARGUED:

Brian C. Anderson, O'Melveny & Myers, Washington, D.C., for Appellant.

John C. Murdock, Murdock, Goldenberg, Schneider & Groh, Cincinnati, Ohio, for Appellee.

ON BRIEF:

Brian C. Anderson, O'Melveny & Myers, Washington, D.C., Gary Glass, Thompson Hine, Cincinnati, Ohio, for Appellant.

John C. Murdock, Murdock, Goldenberg, Schneider & Groh, Cincinnati, Ohio, for Appellee.

Before: MARTIN, MOORE, and ROGERS, Circuit Judges.

OPINION

ROGERS, Circuit Judge.

In this interlocutory appeal of class certification under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23, we affirm the district court's certification of a class of all 1999 or 2000 Mercury Villager owners and lessees who owned or leased their vans during their van's initial warranty period. The class seeks damages for a defective throttle body assembly that causes the accelerator to stick. Although the class includes those owners who never actually experienced a manifestation of the alleged defect, the class certification was not an abuse of discretion because the class and the named plaintiff meet the elements of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23(a) and 23(b)(3).

I. Background

Plaintiff Daffin owns a 1999 Mercury Villager minivan. The accelerator in Daffin's Villager has stuck in place. To overcome the accelerator's sticking, Daffin had to stomp on the accelerator. Ford repaired the throttle body assembly by cleaning it, but Daffin's accelerator sticking persisted. According to Daffin's expert, the accelerator sticking is caused by carbon buildup in the throttle body assembly. The throttle body assembly translates the driver's pressure on the accelerator to an increase or decrease in the mixture of fuel and air that makes the Villager accelerate. Daffin alleges that the throttle body is defective. According to plaintiffs expert, the throttle body either

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needs to be treated with a substance that will resist carbon buildup or a totally different throttle body must be installed. Plaintiffs expert also opined that Daffin's throttle body is the same throttle body that is in all 1999 or 2000 Villagers.

Ford offers a standard "repair or replace" warranty for three years or 36,000 miles. The terms of this warranty require Ford to repair or replace parts found to be "defective in materials or workmanship." The warranty reads as follows:

During this coverage period ["three years or 36,000 miles"], authorized Ford Motor Company dealers will repair, replace, or adjust all parts on your vehicle (except tires) that are defective in factory-supplied materials or workmanship. Items or conditions that are not covered by the New Vehicle Limited Warranty are described on 7-9.

The throttle body assembly is not an item that is specifically excluded by the express terms of the warranty.

Daffin filed suit as an individual in state court. Ford removed the case to federal court, and Daffin sought class certification for a nationwide class on June 29,2001. The district court certified a statewide class defined to include:

all Ohio residents who lease or own a model year 1999 or 2000 Villager that was bought or leased during the warranty period, excluding the defendant, any entity that has a controlling interest in the defendant along with defendant's employees, officers, directors, legal representatives and all of their respective heirs, successors, and assignees and any entity alleging a personal injury claim against Ford arising from the facts of this case.

The district court reasoned that the class satisfied the numerosity element because the thousands of class members could not be practicably joined. Common questions of whether the throttle body assembly is defective predominate. The district court reasoned that Daffin's claim was typical because the same course of conduct (delivering a non-conforming vehicle) gave rise to the same legal claim that all other class members had. The district court found that Daffin's express warranty claim was typical of both owners whose cars manifested defects and owners whose cars did not. The district court found that Daffin was not typical of plaintiffs asserting an implied warranty. The district court concluded that Daffin had "satisfied the typicality prerequisite for at least one of her claims." Lastly, under Rule 23(a)'s adequacy prong, the district court found that Daffin had interests common to the class and was represented by able counsel who will vigorously prosecute.

The district court also found that, under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23(b)(3), common issues predominate. The district court refused to certify the class under Rule 23(b)(2) because the class seeks monetary relief rather than injunctive relief. Instead, the district court certified the class under Rule 23(b)(3) because the common issues of whether the throttle body is defective, how much the defect reduces the value of the car, and whether Ford is in breach predominate. The district court also reasoned that the proposed class was superior to other methods of adjudication.

The district, and subsequently this court, permitted interlocutory appeal pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23(f).

II. Discussion

The district court's determination to certify a class was not an abuse of discretion. See McAuley v. Int'l Bus. Mack Corp., 165 F.3d 1038, 1046 (6th Cir. 1999) (recognizing abuse of discretion as the scope of review).

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Ford argues that this is a case of "certify now, worry later." Ford argues that the district court did not perform the rigorous analysis necessary to determine whether the plaintiffs could prove the elements of a breach-of-express-warranty claim on a class-wide basis. Ford argues that by certifying an express warranty class, the district court's order implicitly held that it is possible for Ohio plaintiffs to recover under breach of a "repair or replace" warranty for a defect that never manifested itself. In sum, Ford argues that, because the class as a whole cannot recover, the district court abused its discretion by certifying a statewide express warranty class.

Daffin argues that the district court properly applied Ohio law and that Ford wants this court to "rule on the merits" of the class. Daffin points out that whether the class members will ultimately be successful in their claims is not a proper basis for reviewing a certification of a class...

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