By on January 7, 2019

A group of Ford owners hoping to cash in on bad nuts did not get their day in court. Instead, their proposed class-action lawsuit was tossed out.

We told you about the 120-count complaint against Ford back in 2017, when the well-known firm Hagens Berman — a veteran of auto litigation — announced the lawsuit. Owners complained about swollen, delaminating lug nuts, stating that this led to out-of-pocket costs, safety concerns, and a reduction in their vehicle’s value. After looking at the case, the judge saw no reason to proceed.Judge Stephen Murphy of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan said the plaintiffs couldn’t provide the necessary facts to back up their claims. No class-action suit for you, basically.

The suit stated that numerous Ford vehicles dating back to 2010 feature two-piece lug nuts with a steel core and chrome, aluminum, or stainless cap for appearance purposes. That outer cap can swell, making them difficult to remove. On the side of the road, with a flat tire, this can pose a safety issue. Meanwhile, towing costs and a new set of nuts at the dealer can harm an owner’s wallet.

In court documents dated January 4th, linked by Automotive News, Murphy outlines the reasons for dismissal. For starters, the suit claims violations of laws in every state in the union, but only presented named plaintiffs from 27 states. “Plaintiffs therefore lack
standing to bring claims under the laws of the remaining twenty-three states,” Murphy wrote.

“Plaintiffs have not alleged facts sufficient to plead a breach of warranty claim under the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act or under the laws of any of the states in which they allege breaches of an express warranty,” he continued, adding that of the group pleading a breach of warranty, only one plaintiff  “properly alleged both a mileage and timeline within the warranty period.” That individual, it should be noted, only took the offending nuts to his dealer — not the actual vehicle.

On the notion that the plaintiffs revealed the failure of the warranty’s essential purpose, Murphy wrote, “To plead that a remedy failed its essential purpose, Plaintiffs must plead facts sufficient to allege that they sought the limited remedy in the warranty period and that the remedy was ineffective. As discussed above, Plaintiffs have not alleged that they presented their vehicles to Ford within the warranty period to have the defective lug nuts replaced.”

Nor did the plaintiffs have all the required facts to back up their state-law fraud and consumer protection claims. The same goes for allegations that Ford knew of the swollen nuts and held back on a remedy to make more money.

“Plaintiffs failed to plead their asserted ‘what’ of Ford’s knowledge of the defect. Plaintiffs point only to negative reviews on third-party forum websites and complaints filed with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). They argue that Defendant knew of the defects because of those outside sources,” Murphy wrote. On the unjust enrichment claim, Murphy said the plaintiffs couldn’t offer proof that Ford’s two-piece lug nuts were any cheaper than solid nuts available from suppliers.

“Regarding the assertion that Ford benefits by not having to purchase new lug nuts for its customers or reimburse its dealers, if true, those facts would benefit Ford only if Ford otherwise had a duty to pay for the lug nut replacements. And the sole time that Ford has such a duty is if a customer’s lug nuts were subject to a valid Repair and Replace Warranty. Because the Court already determined that Plaintiffs failed to adequately plead presentment within the warranty period, the second basis for the unjust enrichment claims necessarily is without merit.”

All of this to say that, if you’re planning on suing an automaker, you’d best make legally viable claims. Otherwise, your suit is Swiss cheese.

[Image: Bigstock]

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33 Comments on “Class-action Lug Nut Lawsuit Falls Apart, Gets Tossed...”


  • avatar
    R Henry

    Wonderful the judge stopped the frivolous suit in its infancy.

    I just completed jury service in a civil case. 3 weeks of testimony related to alleged injuries related to a 10-12 mph rear ender. Driver of lead vehicle claimed concussion syndrome, and $2.2 million in damages.

    Happily, the jury saw through the ridiculousness of claiming PowerBall level damages for a fenderbender. Plaintiff went home with NOTHING! Let that be a lesson to you effing Plaintiffs attorneys!!!!

    • 0 avatar
      JimC2

      “Let that be a lesson to you effing Plaintiffs attorneys!!!!”

      I doubt it, not until they have something to lose. When the game outcomes are always win or draw, the lesson is to keep playing.

    • 0 avatar
      jalop1991

      We need to amend the laws such that plaintiff goes home with defendant’s legal bill and other expenses incurred in responding to the frivolous lawsuit.

      Loser pays–all the way around. Watch the world change overnight.

    • 0 avatar
      MBella

      Normally I’d agree with you, but these lugnuts are truly stupid compared to a single piece design. If one delaminates as your trying to remove it on the side of the road, it’s truly miserable. Ford should have replaced these long ago for free and avoided the lawyers.

  • avatar
    eCurmudgeon

    Please tell me that Ford sourced them from the Deez Company.

  • avatar
    EquipmentJunkie

    Interesting. I just ordered two sets of 10 lug nuts for our Transit from Dorman via Amazon. The Dorman nuts sure beat the two-piece OEM style that easily deformed or disintegrated.

    I would not have joined the class action suit anyway…lawsuits are dumb.

  • avatar
    JMII

    Two piece nuts seem like a terrible idea, if Ford wanted them to look better just chrome them to begin with. What I would like to know is did Ford do this strictly for appearance or just to save a penny per wheel?

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      As dukeisduke and Former FF explain below, two-piece lug nuts are very common. It’s done this way for several reasons:

      1. Ease of manufacturing and cost. Old-style lug nuts have a threaded thru-hole, which makes for very fast and clean production. A solid cosmetic nut has a blind threaded hole, requiring a more careful and slower threading and cleaning operation. Meanwhile, the cosmetic shape is a simple stamping. Combining a standard lug nut with a stamped cover is cheap.

      2. Versatility. By keeping the center of the nut the same, you can more easily vary the cosmetic shell for a variety of vehicles.

      3. Weight. This may seem trivial, but a solid lug nut is significantly heavier than a 2-piece design. Multiply the difference by 5 or more lug nuts, you now have a meaningful adder to unsprung weight in the suspension, and that affects handling, etc.

      I am not a fan of 2-piece lug nuts. I’ve had them shed their outer covers, exposing the basic lug nut inside which is now an odd size due to the absence of the shell. But in most cases, they work fine for a very long time.

      An analog to this discussion is the advent of plastic bumpers 40 years ago, gradually replacing the metal/chrome bumpers everyone used to love. The early plastic covers weren’t great, suffering from poor fit and mismatched colors, cracking, and other issues.

      • 0 avatar
        MBella

        They should just use separate caps like some of the Germans. Even if it falls off unintentionally, it’s not the end of the world.

      • 0 avatar
        bunkie

        All of these “benefits” are for the manufacturer. It would be okay if the owner of the vehicle didn’t have to suffer some issues as a result.

        As I have a separate set of aftermarket wheels and snow tires and change them over myself, I experienced the separation of one of these cost-saving wonders (luckily, I was able to remove the damned thing). The solid chromed lug nuts that I bought with my aftermarket wheels have replaced them all.

        I wonder if Ford did any testing with the impact guns torquing the damned things to over 200 pound-feet that seems to be the standard at everywhere (aside: has anyone ever seen a mechanic use a torque wrench on lig nuts?).

  • avatar
    dukeisduke

    Lug nuts with caps are nothing new – GM used nuts with stainless steel caps as far back as the ’70s. I thought the issue here is the base metal itself, and the technology used, specifically powder injection molding (AKA metal injection molding), where powdered metal is mixed with a binder, and injected into a mold:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Metal_injection_molding

    I think one mistake here was hiring ambulance chasers to file the suit.

  • avatar
    Steve Lynch

    This firm files literally hundreds of frivolous lawsuits a year against car companies and dealers.

    Hopefully one day some automaker will have had enough of this scumbag law firm’s antics and sue them to recap their time and money lost defending these suits.

    • 0 avatar
      ToddAtlasF1

      You’d think they’d be better at filing. I’m not sure where I stand on whether or not this is a frivolous suit. I’ve seen the headaches and expenses caused by these shoddy nuts. Usually the responsible party is a mystery by the time the damage is discovered, but it sure could be avoided by not using such low quality nuts in the first place.

    • 0 avatar
      dukeisduke

      I think the suit might have gone somewhere, if they had hired a different firm. Just push for Ford to replace the lug nuts with one piece nuts (like a recall), not turn it into a giant conspiracy.

  • avatar
    FormerFF

    I’ve had these on my last two cars. If you use the correct size socket and put it all the way on the nut there’s no problem. The problem occurs when a careless mechanic doesn’t set the socket all the way on the nut. You can see a dent in the cap when this has happened.

    I’ve had to buy some replacement nuts but it’s not Ford’s issue, it’s the mechanics who are being sloppy. I’ve rotated my tires and replaced brakes a number of times and never damaged a nut, but I’ve gotten the car back from the tire shop with a couple of nuts badly beaten up.

    • 0 avatar
      dukeisduke

      I run into more trouble with cross threaded nuts, and I’ve replaced three or four studs and nuts on my Toyotas. It wasn’t terribly expensive (about $10 in parts each time, for OEM studs and nuts), just a hassle.

    • 0 avatar
      ToddAtlasF1

      That’s the thing. Even if you take great care, eventually some tire shop, mechanic, or state inspector is going to take off your wheels and jack up these shoddy lug nuts. You’re being too forgiving of the brands that set up their customers with this well-known issue. Ford is far from alone. Most of the issues I’ve seen have been on FCA vehicles.

      • 0 avatar
        mason

        I’ve serviced my 08 Mercury from new and still have had to deal with several spun nuts. Correct socket size, break loose with a breaker bar and remove and snug with a 3/8 cordless impact and finish with a 1/2″ bar. All of this just to prevent possible failure. I’m sure it’s helped save a few but it’s a pipe dream to expect everyone to do the same. I dont even do the same on my other vehicles – some of them many years older. Although I do snug them all with my 3/8 impact and finish up with a bar.

    • 0 avatar
      FWD Donuts

      They’re a terrible design — and my Ford dealer screwed them up on a service visit. Dealer played dumb. Ford didn’t stand behind their product. While a bunch of dirtbag attorneys filing a poorly presented lawsuit isn’t the answer — the status quo stinks. And damaging Ford’s brand in the process.

    • 0 avatar
      George B

      I had to fight with damaged lug nuts on a 2013 Ford Escape a couple weeks back. Used a hammer to get the socket all the way onto several of the nuts so I could rotate the tires.

    • 0 avatar
      raph

      They will wear out eventually when used with an impact wrench even if the mechanic fully engages the nut.

    • 0 avatar
      Scoutdude

      Yeah it is all about the tool used and how it is used. I’ve got some that are 20 years old because people only used a 6 point socket and hand tools. Meanhwile my 4 year old units were damaged at the tire shop by using a 12 point socket.

  • avatar
    pragmatic

    I’ve had problems with these. Changed the 2000 Lincoln to DSM lugnuts and my 2004 Jaguar to Toyota Lugs. Mo need for a lawsuit but I wish Ford would use better lugs.

    • 0 avatar
      mason

      I generally despise lawsuits of this nature but I’m honestly not sure what the answer is going forward. At this point I’d say it’s safe to say Ford has no plans to change up their design nor admit wrong doing. The article above says the problem goes back to 2010, my 08 had this problem and who knows how long before this it really existed. While certain items are destined to wear out lug nuts are one of those things that should last nearly infinitely provided proper application.
      It blows my mind that after all these years we are still discussing this issue.

  • avatar
    Superdessucke

    “Wheels Fall Off Lug Nut Suit” would have been a far better headline!

  • avatar
    EBFlex

    Good luck to the fools that buy the new Ranger.

  • avatar
    Yankee

    Is it only me looking at that elephant in the corner of the room? Only one comment even mentions FCA. Jeep and Chrysler vehicles have been plagued by poor quality two-piece construction for as long as I can remember as a mechanic. The “dent” some comments referred to is not from a sloppy mechanic! It’s because that is all the further the socket will now go on! I bought new solid ones for most of our fleet of Dodge Grand Caravan CVs at work and routinely replace them on all the Jeeps I work on. Many times the corrosion expands so much under the cheap chrome cap that you have to use a small chisel to peel it off and get to an actual hexagonal shape to put a wrench on. It’s a terrible design that has never been changed. I’m not a GM fan, but their externally threaded nuts for plastic caps works well. Never had a problem with one, and the fact that you can remove the cap with the same socket as the nut is a bonus (unlike running back to your box for a pick to get the caps off VW/Audi products)

  • avatar
    NeilM

    I like the VAG caps. Yes you need a pick, or the supplied tweezer tool, to pop them off, but that’s easy enough. The caps are plastic and therefore don’t corrode, are inexpensive to replace, and come in black or silver/grey. A pretty good solution compared to either the described Ford fiasco or to the usual factory lug bolts or nuts that look like crap after a year or two.

    • 0 avatar
      Scoutdude

      The thing about the Ford caps being stainless is that they do not corrode like chrome plated nuts will. The problem in the salt belt is that the nut under the cap corrodes.


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