Southern California Record

Monday, February 17, 2020

Lemon law trial set to get under way in Riverside County is continued

State Court

By Amanda Smith-Teutsch | Jan 27, 2020

Judge Craig Riemer

A trial set to get under way on Monday against Ford Motor Co. over allegations it knew its PowerShift Transmission was flawed from the start has been continued. 

The case is Ambriz v. Ford Motor Company, filed in the Riverside County Superior Court. It was originally filed in September 2016 – about 18 months after Leonila and Erick Ambriz bought their new Ford Focus. Over that 18 month period, they claim their car suffered numerous problems, was in the shop for repairs for several days and did not perform as expected. 

They claim loss of money, property and value to the vehicle. They are represented by attorneys from O'Connor & Mikhov in Laguna Beach. 

In the last six years, more than 30,000 complaints have been filed against the auto industry in California courts, and each year since 2015 the number has grown. Ford Motor Co. has been hit with the most lemon law suits with at least 8,791 since 2015.

Ford, represented by attorneys at Gates, O'Doherty, Gonter & Guy in Irvine, and others, has been pushing back against an avalanche of cases with mixed results. 

In December, a federal judge dismissed two lemon law cases that had been consolidated at federal court at the Central District of California. Ford has argued that many of the cases are lawyer-driven and unsupported by evidence. 

The auto maker also lost a second consecutive trial in December that reached a $23,000 plaintiff's verdict. However, the company may appeal the verdict on claims of alleged misconduct of the plaintiff's attorney which Ford's attorneys argued repeatedly violated a judge's order during questioning of witnesses. Ford says that "repeated misconduct" was of "substantial prejudice" to its defense. 

The Ambriz lawsuit expected to go to trial today claims Ford violated California's Song-Beverly Act - also known as California’s lemon law - and did not honor the warranties offered on their vehicle. 

In response, Ford has denied all of the claims in the Ambriz lawsuit, among other things saying a statute of limitations had expired before the couple sued. The company’s response places any fault with the vehicle on how it was driven or maintained, and that the family has no claims under the company’s written warranties. 

“The claimed defect or nonconformity was caused by the unauthorized or unreasonable use of the vehicle following sale,” the company states, claiming the car was in proper working order when it left the factory and there were no flaws in its building or design. 

The case is presided over by Superior Court Judge Craig G. Riemer. 

In October the judge ordered the case bifurcated into two parts. Issues of liability, fraud and compensatory damages will be heard in the first part of the case. When that’s concluded, the judge will hear arguments about exemplary damages. 

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