Class Action Defense Cases–Danvers v. Ford Motor: Third Circuit Reverses Certification Of Class Action Holding Rule 23(b)(3)’s Predominance And Superiority Tests For Class Action Treatment Had Not Been Met
Class Action Complaint by Car Dealers Against Ford Arising out of Blue Oval Program Erroneously Certified as Class Action because Rule 23(b)(3)’s Predominance and Superiority Requirements not met Third Circuit Holds
Nine plaintiffs filed a putative class action against Ford on behalf of themselves and other Ford dealers; the class action complaint alleged that Ford’s Blue Oval Program violated state and federal law. Danvers Motor Co., Inc. v. Ford Motor Co., 543 F.3d 141, 142-43 (3d Cir. 2008). The federal court dismissed the class action for lack of standing, and plaintiffs filed an amended class action complaint. Id., at 143. In response to a defense motion to dismiss the amended class action, the federal court again concluded that all but one of the named plaintiffs lacked standing to prosecute the action, id. The Third Circuit reversed. See Danvers Motor Co. v. Ford Motor Co., 432 F.3d 286 (3d Cir. 2005). Plaintiffs moved the district court to certify the litigation as a class action, and the court granted the motion. Danvers, 543 F.3d at 143. The Third Circuit granted Ford leave to appeal pursuant to Rule 28 U.S.C. § 1292(b), and reversed.
Ford’s Blue Oval Program, which ran from April 2000 to March 2005, was a voluntary program extended to all Ford dealers “to improve dealer performance and customer satisfaction” by “provid[ing] cash bonus payments and other benefits to Ford dealers who improved customer satisfaction according to certain criteria.” Danvers, at 143. The class action complaint alleged that the Blue Oval Program violated the Robinson-Patman Act, the Automobile Dealer's Day in Court Act, and various state franchise laws. Id., at 143-44. The class action alleged further that Ford breached the terms of its Sales and Service Agreement with its dealers, and sought “both injunctive relief and damages on behalf of approximately 4,000 Ford dealers.” Id., at 144. However, the Third Circuit observed that some dealers were “certified” under the Blue Oval Program while other dealers were not certified under the Program, and that “dealers expended different efforts with respect to certification, [and] the dealers were impacted by the [Program] in different ways.” Id. Indeed, the Third Circuit summarized the way in which the specific injuries allegedly suffered by the nine named plaintiffs showed those differences, see id., at 144-45.