For the second time, a federal appeals court has rejected certification of a national class-action lawsuit againt Ford Motor Co. and Bridgestone/Firestone (BFS).
The head plaintiffs' attorney in the action, meanwhile, said the appeals court ruling will lead to a raft of state class-action lawsuits, which are now being filed across the U.S.
The full Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago declined June 6 to review the May 2 decision of a three-judge panel from the court. That decision granted Ford and Bridgestone/Firestone's motion to overturn the certification in Indianapolis federal district court of a financial-damages class-action suit potentially involving millions of plaintiffs.
The class action covered owners of some 3 million Ford Explorers manufactured between 1991 and 2001 and equipped with 15 million Firestone tires. Lawyers seeking to certify the class wanted monetary compensation for owners because of loss of product value and consumer safety issues, apart from wrongful death and injury claims handled in other lawsuits.
Ford and BFS argued that the members of the class were too diverse-including more than 280 distinct tire populations-to make it workable. Judge Sarah Evans Barker of the Indianapolis court disagreed, certifying the class action in November and affirming her judgment in December.
The three-judge appeals panel, however, reversed Judge Barker. ``Because these claims must be adjudicated under the law of so many jurisdictions, a single nationwide class is not manageable,'' it said.
Don Barrett, the Lexington, Miss., attorney who led the motion for a federal class action, said he will appeal before the U.S. Supreme Court. Meanwhile, he added, attorneys who took the lead in the national action have filed or are filing state class-action lawsuits in California, Arkansas, Wisconsin, Tennessee, Florida, New Jersey, Connecticut and Illinois.
In a prepared statement, BFS said it was pleased at the Seventh Circuit's decision.
``This decision confirms what we have been saying all along: The circumstances of these claims are far too varied to justify class certification,'' the Nashville, Tenn.-based tire maker said. ``More importantly, these are claims by people whose tires never failed and who never suffered an injury.''
Ford, in its statement, noted the appeals court has already recognized that Ford and BFS have taken care of the tire issue and that a federal investigation of the Explorer was dropped.