Another court in the Eastern District of Michigan recently dismissed a putative class action on prudential mootness grounds, holding that the manufacturer’s voluntary recall program—which was supervised by a federal administrative agency—mooted the plaintiffs’ consumer fraud and warranty claims.  See Pacheco v. Ford Motor Co., 2023 WL 2603937 (E.D. Mich. Mar. 22, 2023).

In July 2022, Ford Motor Company voluntarily recalled approximately 100,000 vehicles following reports that engine leaks in particular vehicles had resulted in under-hood fires or smoke.  Id. at *1.  In connection with the recall, Ford promised to repair all vehicles free of charge through two engine-related fixes, and to reimburse owners who had already paid out-of-pocket for repairs.  Id. at *1, 3.  One month later, fourteen plaintiffs filed a nationwide putative class action lawsuit against Ford, asserting claims for fraud, breach of warranty, unjust enrichment, as well as violations of various state consumer protection statutes.  Id. at *1.  Although none of the plaintiffs’ vehicles had actually experienced a leaky engine or engine fire, the plaintiffs nonetheless sought damages for “overpayment of their vehicles” based on the fire risk.  Id. at *2. 

In granting Ford’s motion to dismiss, the court bypassed the question of Article III standing and instead exercised its discretion to dismiss the lawsuit under the prudential mootness doctrine—which applies when “a coordinate branch of government steps in to promise the relief [that the plaintiff] seeks.”  Id. at *2–5 (internal marks omitted).  The court determined that Ford’s recall program left the court without any “effective relief” to provide, rendering dismissal appropriate in this case.  Id. at *3, 5.  Central to the court’s analysis was the fact that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (“NHTSA”) would oversee Ford’s recall program and could take action against Ford if the company failed to comply with its recall obligations.  Id. at *3.  Notably, the court’s ruling did not hinge on whether the plaintiffs had, in fact, sought relief through the recall program.  See id. at *1.

The court also firmly rejected the plaintiffs’ concerns about the adequacy of Ford’s recall.  While the plaintiffs argued that Ford’s two field fixes were insufficient to remedy the underlying defect in their vehicles and generated a new host of problems (such as diminished fuel economy), the court found that these speculative concerns did not “show[] a cognizable danger that the recall remedy supervised by NHTSA will fail.”  Id. at *4.  That plaintiffs “disagree with the approach taken by Ford to fix the problem,” the court noted, did not affect the prudential mootness analysis.  Id.

Pacheco provides defendants with yet another tool to use when defending class action lawsuits brought following a manufacturer-initiated recall—particularly when the recall is subject to oversight by a federal regulator.

Photo of Andrew Soukup Andrew Soukup

Andrew Soukup has a wide-ranging complex litigation practice representing highly regulated businesses in class actions and other high-stakes disputes. He has built a successful record of defending clients from consumer protection claims asserted in class-action lawsuits and other multistate proceedings, many of which…

Andrew Soukup has a wide-ranging complex litigation practice representing highly regulated businesses in class actions and other high-stakes disputes. He has built a successful record of defending clients from consumer protection claims asserted in class-action lawsuits and other multistate proceedings, many of which were defeated through dispositive pre-trial motions.
Andrew is co-chair of the firm’s Class Action Litigation practice group.

Andrew has helped his clients achieve successful outcomes at all stages of litigation, including through trial and appeal. He has helped his clients prevail in litigation against putative class representatives, government agencies, and commercial entities. Representative victories include:

  • Delivered wins in multiple nationwide class actions on behalf of large financial companies related to fees, disclosures, and other banking practices, including the successful defense of numerous lenders accused of violating the Paycheck Protection Program’s implementing laws, which contributed to Covington’s recent recognition as a “Class Action Group Of The Year.”
  • Successfully defending several of the nation’s leading financial institutions in a wide variety of litigation and arbitration proceedings involving alleged violations of RICO, FCRA, TILA, TCPA, FCBA, ECOA, EFTA, FACTA, and state consumer protection and unfair and deceptive acts or practices statutes, as well as claims involving breach of contract, fraud, unjust enrichment, and other torts.
  • Successfully defended several of the nation’s leading companies and brands from claims that they deceptively marketed their products, including claims brought under state consumer protection and unfair deceptive acts or practices statutes.
  • Obtained favorable outcomes for numerous clients in commercial disputes raising contract, fraud, and other business tort claims.

Because many of Andrew’s clients are subject to extensive federal regulation and oversight, Andrew has significant experience successfully invoking federal preemption to defeat litigation.

Andrew also advises clients on their arbitration agreements. He has successfully helped numerous clients avoid multi-district class-action litigation by successfully enforcing the institutions’ arbitration agreements.

Clients praise Andrew for his personal attention to their matters, his responsiveness, and his creative strategies. Based on his “big wins in his class action practice,” Law360 named Mr. Soukup a “Class Action Rising Star.

Prior to practicing law, Andrew worked as a journalist.

Photo of Sonya Winner Sonya Winner

A litigator with three decades of experience, Sonya Winner handles high-stakes civil cases for clients in a wide range of industries, including banking, pharmaceuticals and professional sports. She has handled numerous antitrust and consumer disputes, many of them class actions, in state and…

A litigator with three decades of experience, Sonya Winner handles high-stakes civil cases for clients in a wide range of industries, including banking, pharmaceuticals and professional sports. She has handled numerous antitrust and consumer disputes, many of them class actions, in state and federal courts across the country.

Sonya’s cases typically involve difficult technical issues and/or complex legal and regulatory schemes. She is regularly able to resolve cases before the trial phase, often through dispositive motions. But when neither summary judgment nor a favorable settlement is an option, she has the confidence of her clients to take the case all the way through trial and on appeal. Her recent successes have included a cutting-edge decision rejecting a “true lender” challenge to National Bank Act preemption in a class action involving interest rates on student loans, as well as the outright dismissal of a putative antitrust claim against the National Football League and its member clubs asserting an unlawful conspiracy to fix cheerleader compensation.

Sonya has been recognized as a leading trial lawyer by publications like Chambers and the Daily Journal. She is chair of the firm’s Class Action Litigation Practice Group.