Class-action Lug Nut Lawsuit Falls Apart, Gets Tossed

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems
class action lug nut lawsuit falls apart gets tossed

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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3 of 33 comments
  • Yankee Yankee on Jan 08, 2019

    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)

  • NeilM NeilM on Jan 08, 2019

    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.

    • Scoutdude Scoutdude on Jan 08, 2019

      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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