Ford wins Ohio retrial on truck dealer discounts

CLEVELAND (AP) -- A jury has rejected a claim by commercial truck dealers that Ford Motor Co. overcharged them over 11 years by offering discounts to other dealerships.

The jury returned the verdict last Wednesday in the class-action lawsuit filed by Westgate Ford Truck Sales of Youngstown in 2002.

Dealers had won a nearly $2 billion award on the first trial in 2011. Last year, an appeals court threw out the ruling and said Ford's defense must have more leeway.

No decision has been made on an appeal, attorney James Lowe, representing dealers, said last Thursday. "It has been a long fight and I suspect that it's not over," he said.

A message seeking comment was left for Ford's defense team.

The earlier award included a judgment of about $781 million and about $1.2 billion in interest. It covered more than 3,000 dealerships and 474,000 trucks.

The appeals court had ruled that the trial judge abused his discretion in excluding possible evidence in Ford's favor at the first trial.

The appeals court called the dealership contracts in question "ambiguous" and said it can be interpreted in different ways. It said jurors, who originally only heard certain arguments because some were excluded, should have heard all key arguments in the case.

Lowe said the appeals court ruling was a factor in the second trial. "It certainly did make a difference. There was much more expansive presentation of evidence this time," he said.

The appeals court also ruled the trial judge erred in not allowing Ford attorneys to challenge expert testimony from the plaintiffs when it was determining damages in the case.

Published: Mon, Sep 16, 2013