Plaintiffs don't need 'perfect' knowledge of their Ford claim, attorney argues

By Steve Korris | Mar 14, 2007

Plaintiffs in a Lakin Law Firm class action suit over paint that flaked off Ford vehicles don't know the difference between two classes that former Madison County Circuit Judge Phillip Kardis certified in the suit.

According to the Lakin firm, their lack of understanding doesn't mean they can't represent the classes.

In a March 7 brief, Robert Schmieder quoted a federal court ruling that a class representative needs only marginal familiarity with facts of a case.

He wrote, "Plaintiffs all understand the core issue of this case, i. e, that they were damaged due to Ford's failure to disclose the risk of paint delamination, to ensure vigorous advocacy."

Schmieder seeks to certify Norma Maag, Joseph Gulash, Peter Yaciuk and Beverly Breder as class representatives.

Ford Motor Company opposes certification, arguing that they are inadequate class representatives.

Ford separately seeks to decertify both classes, under decisions the Illinois Supreme Court has reached since Kardis certified them.

The Lakin firm needs new class representatives because the original plaintiff, Joyce Phillips, withdrew.

Phillips, a Lakin Law Firm secretary, sued Ford in 1999. She claimed Ford did not disclose a risk that paint would delaminate and peel away.

In an amended complaint, Daniel Schopp joined the suit.

In a 2002 deposition, a Ford attorney asked Schopp if he had a personal basis for an allegation of fraud in the complaint. Schopp said no.

In 2003, Kardis certified Phillips and Schopp to represent two classes – those whose top coat delaminated and those whose clear coat delaminated.

Kardis retired and the case passed to Circuit Judge Andy Matoesian. Last year he allowed Phillips to withdraw.

The Lakin firm moved to substitute or add class representatives. Ford then deposed the new plaintiffs.

When an attorney asked Yaciuk if he knew the court certified two classes, Yaciuk said no.

When the attorney asked the size of the class he sought to represent, he said, "I really have no idea. Many."

Breder told a Ford attorney she would represent both those with clear coat delamination and those with topcoat delamination.

When the attorney asked if she knew which type of delamination she had, Breder said no.

The attorney asked how long paint should last on a vehicle. Breder said, "As long as I own it."

The attorney asked if it should last 25 years. She said it should.

Gulash told a Ford attorney the problem was clear coating and top coating.

The attorney asked if those were different problems. Gulash said, "I'm not an expert. What the process is on the painting procedure I don't know."

At Maag's deposition, a Ford attorney asked if she expected paint to stay on a vehicle for the life of the car, she said yes.

Ford attorney Peter Herzog of St. Louis opposed certification of the new plaintiffs in February.

He wrote that Breder still owns her 1996 Ford van but has not driven it in five years.

He wrote, "Maag does not understand the concepts of delamination or class certification and does not even know that the lawsuit involves more than one class."

He wrote, "Gulash does not even know whether their used truck has Ford paint on it or whether it was repainted before they purchased it."

He wrote, "Gulash testified that the truck is unlicensed and uninsured."

He wrote that Yaciuk did not know there were two classes. He wrote that Yaciuk drove his vehicle 15 years.

He wrote that Yaciuk repainted his vehicle while involved in the lawsuit.

Schmieder replied that, "Illinois courts do not require class representatives to have perfect knowledge about their case…"

Matoesian has not set a hearing on the adequacy of the plaintiffs. First he will take up the motion to decertify at a hearing March 30.

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