In the retrial of a case that previously resulted in a $2 billion judgment against the automaker a Cleveland jury found that Ford didn’t breach pricing contracts with commercial truck dealers.
The plaintiffs claimed Ford offered secret discounts to some dealers even though it was obligated by sales and service agreements to publish all prices. The suing dealers said those excluded from discounts wound up paying more for vehicles, hurting their profits.
“The men and women who worked for Ford and who have been involved in this program for three decades have been vindicated, ” James Feeney, the company’s trial lawyer, said in an interview after the verdict. “Our view all along is that there was no breach of this contract.”
Ford denied committing any breaches or overcharging dealers, contending a program that offered some discounts wasn’t barred by the contract. The state court jury today agreed with Ford.
The dealers asked the jury to award $784.7 million in damages. Plaintiffs also sought interest to be added to any judgment. The dealers are considering an appeal, James Lowe, their lawyer, said after the verdict. The jury’s decision was “surprising,” he said. “We thought we had persuaded them that Ford had breached the contract.”
The dealers sued Dearborn, Michigan-based Ford in 2002, claiming the company broke an agreement to sell trucks at published prices, forcing them to pay more from 1987 to 1998. In the first trial on the claim, Cuyahoga County Judge Peter J. Corrigan awarded $2 billion, including about $1.2 billion in interest, to a class of about 3,000 dealers in 2011. A state appeals court ordered a new trial last year, finding Corrigan improperly excluded evidence that might have helped the company.