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Car Fraud Cases and the “Economic Loss” Doctrine – Martin v. Ford Motor Co.

For a person seeking to sue for car fraud, it’s not enough to know who swindled you and how they did it. You also need to know what claims to raise in order to recover your losses. In Martin v. Ford Motor Co., the district court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania explains that fraud claims may not always do the trick.

Plaintiff Aaron D. Martin filed a Complaint against Defendant Ford Motor Company, including class action claims brought “on behalf of himself and other similarly situated.” He claims that Ford failed to disclose a known defect in its 1999-2003 Ford Windstar model cars. Specifically, Plaintiff argues that although Ford expressly warranted that the 2001 Windstar that Plaintiff purchased from an authorized dealer was free of defects, the car’s rear axle is allegedly unsealed, causing it to rust and corrode over time before ultimately cracking. The defect is allegedly widely known and much discussed in the automotive industry, according to Plaintiff, and therefore Ford should have been aware of it. Three months after the complaint was filed, Ford recalled all Windstars manufactured between 1998 and 2002 in order to fix the rear axle problem.

Plaintiff’s many claims against Ford include a general fraud claim as well as those for intentional misrepresentation or omission, false statements and violation of the Pennsylvania Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Law. Defendants countered by arguing that these claims are barred by the “economic loss” doctrine, which in Pennsylvania prohibits a Plaintiff from recovering economic losses in a tort claim where the entitlement to the money is based in contract. In other words, because Plaintiff’s right to recover any losses from Ford is based on the parties’ contract, the company argued that he cannot seek to recover these losses in tort (i.e., via the fraud claims).

While the court noted that the economic loss doctrine does not apply to intentional misconduct, such as fraud, it also held that this exception is not available where the intentional misconduct alleged concerns the quality of a good being sold. In this case the intentional misconduct – Ford’s alleged misrepresentations – concerned the quality of the vehicle, a good offered for sale. As a result, the economic loss doctrine barred Plaintiff’s fraud claims under state law, which the court dismissed.

The ruling does not mean, however, that Plaintiff cannot recover damages against Ford. The court refused to dismiss Plaintiff’s fraud claims raised under the laws of various states other than Pennsylvania. Nor did it dismiss his claim for unjust enrichment. Plaintiff also retains the right to sue for breach of contract.


At National Consumer Rights, we are dedicated to assisting victims of fraud and stopping predatory company practices, including auto dealer fraud. Centrally located in the Midwest (Chicago, Illinois, and Oak Brook, Illinois), our auto fraud attorneys can assist consumers throughout the country (from New York to Los Angeles) who have been financially injured because of auto dealer fraud.

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