Federal Appeals Court Allows Wrongful Death Lawsuit Against Ford to Continue
PASO ROBLES, Calif. – The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit granted a favorable ruling to plaintiffs in a wrongful death lawsuit filed against Ford for allegedly weakening the roof strength of Ford Super Duty pickup trucks to cut costs, knowing it increased risk of injury or death, according to plaintiffs’ attorneys at Hagens Berman.
The lawsuit was originally filed Feb. 7, 2023, in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California on behalf of the parents of Mikyley Reitz and accuses the automaker of negligence and wrongful conduct regarding a roof crush defect in Super Duty pickup trucks that attorneys at Hagens Berman say is responsible for the 25-year-old’s tragic death in a rollover accident in June 2017.
In May 2023 U.S. District Judge Percy Anderson dismissed the family’s lawsuit based on the statute of limitations, but a ruling from the 9th Circuit on Feb. 8, 2024, on behalf of John B. Owens, Patrick J. Bumatay and Salvador Mendoza, Jr. revived the case, allowing claims to continue.
In the 6-page ruling vacating and reversing the district court’s decision, the Court of Appeals found that California’s discovery rule excuses the late filing past the two-year statute of limitations.
“California’s discovery rule ‘delays accrual [of the statute of limitations] until the plaintiff has, or should have, inquiry notice of the cause of action,’” the ruling states. “Inquiry notice occurs ‘when the plaintiff suspects or should suspect that her injury was caused by wrongdoing, that someone has done something wrong to her.’”
The ruling goes on to explain that initially, Reitz’s family assumed that the damage to her F-350 was due to “the forces involved in the accident” and not a design defect, and that had there been a design defect, they “would have been notified by Ford because Ford likely monitors fatalities involving their vehicles.” Because they only became aware of the possible cause of action only after a jury awarded $1.7 billion in putative damages against Ford for a similar defect in August 2022, the plaintiffs in the case would never have known to file their case sooner.
“The family of this young woman would have had absolutely no way of knowing the underpinnings of what led to the fatal aspect of this horrific crash,” said Jacob Berman, the attorney leading the case. “We are incredibly grateful to the appeals court for upholding California’s state laws protecting plaintiffs in situations such as this, during which they were affected by circumstances they were not yet aware of.”
Reitz, whose family is represented by personal injury attorneys at Hagens Berman, was a passionate rodeo barrel racer who loved the outdoors and spending time with family. On June 19, 2017, she was travelling to a friend’s house in San Luis Obispo County when a curve in the roadway caused her to lose control of her 2001 Ford F-350. The pickup rolled, and the cab was crushed, inflicting fatal injuries upon Reitz, the only passenger.
In September 2022, Hagens Berman also filed a class-action lawsuit on behalf of owners of Ford Super Duty pickups nationwide, accusing the automaker of selling more than 5 million pickup trucks it was well aware were equipped with a dangerously weak and defective roof. The firm’s subsequent lawsuit illuminated an even starker timeline of Ford’s alleged negligence, demonstrating that the automaker had over the course of nearly a decade continually downgraded or entirely removed key structural features of the roof design in order to cut costs.
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About Hagens Berman
Hagens Berman is a global plaintiffs’ rights complex litigation law firm with a tenacious drive for achieving actual results for those harmed by corporate negligence and fraud. Since its founding in 1993, the firm’s determination has earned it numerous national accolades, awards and titles of “Most Feared Plaintiff’s Firm,” MVPs and Trailblazers of class-action law. More about the law firm and its successes can be found at www.hbsslaw.com. Follow the firm for updates and news at @ClassActionLaw.