In re Ford Motor Co. Ignition Switch Products Liability Litigation

194 F.R.D. 484 (2000)

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In re Ford Motor Co. Ignition Switch Products Liability Litigation

United States District Court for the District of New Jersey
194 F.R.D. 484 (2000)

Facts

Vehicle owners (owners) (plaintiffs) sued Ford Motor Company (Ford) (defendant) for property damages they sustained as a result of vehicle fires allegedly caused by faulty ignition switches. The owners moved for class certification, but the motion was denied without prejudice to allow the owners to amend the class definition for compliance with the certification requirements of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23(b)(3). The owners renewed their motion for class certification and proposed a two-stage trial plan for class-wide adjudication of the ignition-switch claims. In Stage 1, competing experts would present statistical data and mechanical evidence to establish a rebuttable presumption of causation between faulty ignition switches and the owners’ vehicle fires. Stage 2 would involve mini-trials in which Ford could present evidence to rebut the presumption of causation in specific cases. The statistical data that the owners intended to use was drawn from an analysis of Ford’s database of vehicle-owner complaints in which complaints of passenger cabin fires were extracted and refined to include those that likely originated from the ignition switch. In its opposition to class certification, Ford argued that the statistical data could not be used to conclusively prove causation because it was based on untested allegations and ambiguous circumstances rather than actual ignition-switch fires. The court took the owners’ motion for certification under consideration.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Simandle, J.)

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