SFMS Announces Victory Before Wisconsin Supreme Court In Ford Panther Platform Secret Warranty Appeal

Shepherd, Finkelman, Miller & Shah, LLC is pleased to announce that it has prevailed in the appeal it filed on behalf of its clients, Hilario Cuellar, Jr. and Michael McVicker, as well as a proposed class of all purchasers and lessees of 1992-2003 Panther Platform vehicles (i.e., all 1992-2003 Ford Crown Victoria, Mercury Grand Marquis and Lincoln Town Car automobiles) before the Wisconsin Supreme Court. In this action, Mr. Cuellar and Mr. McVicker alleged that Ford Motor Company violated Wisconsin’s Secret Warranty Act, Wis. Stat. §218.0172, by offering an upgrade kit to improve the integrity of the fuel systems of Crown Victoria Police Interceptor and other Panther Platform vehicles used in law enforcement duty throughout the United States but refusing to offer this repair to other owners and lessees of Panther Platform vehicles.

In a unanimous decision authored by Chief Judge Wedemeyer, the Wisconsin Court of Appeals reversed the judgment of the Circuit Court for Milwaukee County. In so holding, the Wisconsin Court of Appeals reached the following conclusions:

• “[T]he undisputed facts demonstrate that the upgrade program did constitute an ‘extended policy program’ subject to” Wisconsin’s Secret Warranty Act.

• “[I]s the ‘upgrade program’ an ‘extended policy program’? There is no reasonable way to answer the question negatively.”

• “Ford is agreeing to provide the upgrade program at no cost to all eligible CVPIs.”

• “[T]he program purports to repair the condition on the Panther Platform vehicles relating to the fuel tank integrity in rear collisions.”

• “[T]he upgrade program addresses a condition that may affect the vehicle’s durability and performance. It may affect how durable the vehicle is during a rear-end collision and it may affect how well the vehicle ‘performs’ during an accident.”

• “The trial court mistakenly believed that repair of a defect was required to state a claim” under Wisconsin’s Secret Warranty Act.

• “[T]he trial court was mistaken in its belief that the statute [Wisconsin’s Secret Warranty Act] requires a showing that pecuniary loss be incurred to maintain a claim.”

• “[T]he trial court’s determination that Cuellar [and McVicker] did not have standing because he did not suffer any pecuniary loss was erroneous.”

• Wisconsin’s Secret Warranty Act “was enacted to eliminate exactly what happened here – – a secret warranty being offered only to a particular group, here, law enforcement vehicles despite the fact that all of the Panther Platform vehicles suffer from the same condition being offered for repair.”

• Plaintiffs’ claims were not preempted by federal law as Ford argued.

Ford sought reconsideration of the Wisconsin Court of Appeals’ decision, which was denied. Ford also petitioned the Wisconsin Supreme Court seeking reviewing of the Wisconsin Court of Appeals’ decision. On January 11, 2007, SFMS received notice that the Wisconsin Supreme Court had denied Ford’s request that the unanimous decision of the Wisconsin Court of Appeals be reviewed. SFMS believes that the decisions in this case represent a significant victory for consumers in the State of Wisconsin. SFMS congratulates Douglas P. Dehler, its resident partner in its Milwaukee, Wisconsin office, on this significant victory, as well as all of the other attorneys and legal assistants who worked on presenting this appeal.

To view a copy of the Wisconsin Court of Appeals’ decision, please click on the link below.

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