Flaky Ford plaintiff settles de-certified case as individual

Steve Korris Jan. 1, 2009, 1:23am


Lakin Law Firm client Daniel Schopp, who led a colossal Madison County class action against Ford Motor Company, has settled his suit as an individual.

Circuit Judge Richard Tognarelli, who decertified Schopp as class representative in 2007, granted Schopp's motion to dismiss on Dec. 19.

Schopp alleged that from 1989 to 1996, Ford failed to warn buyers of Ford, Lincoln and Mercury vehicles that their paint might flake off.

The Lakin firm sued Ford in 1999 on behalf of Joyce Phillips, a secretary at the firm.

Ford challenged her adequacy as class representative, arguing that her job created a conflict of interest with her counsel, but Circuit Judge Philip Kardis found no conflict.

The Lakins added Schopp as plaintiff in 2002.

In 2003 Kardis certified them to represent two classes – those whose top coat failed and those whose clear plastic coat failed.

One class would allege common law fraud in 49 states and one would allege consumer fraud in 46 states.

Kardis's order covered 27 million vehicles.

He retired in 2005, and in the same year the Illinois Supreme Court overturned a $1.2 billion class action verdict from Williamson County, in Avery v. State Farm.

Ford moved to decertify the classes in light of the decision, arguing that individual issues would overwhelm class issues.

Phillips withdrew as lead plaintiff, citing personal reasons.

In December 2007 Tognarelli, as associate judge, decertified the classes.

He wrote that the case "would result in a battle of the experts as to many of the potentially 27 million vehicles involved, overwhelming the court with mini-trials."

Experts would have to inspect each car to determine if it fit the class, he wrote, and warranty issues would have to be answered for each individual.

He wrote that Ford acknowledged paint problems and spent millions fixing them.

The Lakins moved for reconsideration, and Tognarelli denied it last October.

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Illinois Supreme Court
200 E Capitol Ave
Springfield, IL 62701

Ford Motor Company
1 American Rd
Dearborn, MI 48126

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