Tuesday, August 17, 2010 at 12:19 p.m.
Bad news for Land Rover.
A federal appeals panel this morning reversed the ruling of an Orange County-based federal judge who had denied class action status in a consumer protection case against the British manufacturer, which allegedly sold defective vehicles.
According to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, U.S. District Judge Andrew J. Guilford "abused his discretion." It also determined that, contrary to Guilford's opinion otherwise, "it is far more efficient to litigate this on a classwide basis rather than in thousands of individual and overlapping lawsuits."
The appellate justices ordered the case filed by dissatisfied Land Rover buyers in Florida and Michigan back to Guilford's Santa Ana courtroom for future proceedings that are "not inconsistent" with their ruling.
Kenneth Gable and Brian Wolin, the consumers, claim that Land Rover "unjustly enriched" itself by selling "defective vehicles" whose alignment geometry caused tires to prematurely wear,
The company, which fought class action status, eventually issued a "Technical Service Bulletin indicating that the tires on certain vehicles may wear prematurely and unevenly due to the vehicles' steering alignment geometry," according to court records.
But both Gable and Wolin complained that after they confronted the company with the issue, Land Rover officials did not comply with the vehicle's warranty that guaranteed "full reimbursement" for the tires and re-alignment repairs.
Guilford, one of Southern California's most respected judges and the man who presided over the corruption trial of sheriff-turned-convicted-felon Mike Carona, had decided that the plaintiffs had not sufficiently produced enough evidence of widespread consumer harm.
The Ninth Circuit is considering Carona's appeal of his 66-month federal prison sentence.
--R. Scott Moxley / OC Weekly