From The Legal Files: Ohio Court Tosses Out Award Against Ford

The Ohio Court of Appeals has thrown out a $2 billion award against Ford Motor Co. and ordered a new trial for a class of commercial-truck dealers who claimed the automaker overcharged them for 11 years.

The reversal of the largest judgment Ford had faced was revealed by the automaker in a government filing. The state appeals court in Cleveland found May 3 that the trial judge improperly excluded evidence presented by Ford. The dealers can request that the Ohio Supreme Court review the ruling.

The dealers sued Ford in 2002, claiming the company broke an agreement to sell trucks at published prices, which forced them to pay more from 1987 through 1998 and cut into profits.

Cuyahoga County Judge Peter J. Corrigan last June upheld a $4.5 million verdict awarded to one Ohio dealer in February 2011 by a Cleveland jury. He also said Ford had to pay similar damages and interest to a class of about 3,000 other dealers.

“We look forward to trying the case before a jury that will be able to consider all the evidence that was improperly excluded in the first trial,” Marcey Evans, a Ford spokeswoman, said today in an interview.

The $2 billion award was five times higher than the largest-ever jury award against Ford in a lawsuit, according to data compiled by Bloomberg News.

The largest jury verdict against Ford was for $369 million in a products-defect case awarded in California in 2004. That verdict was later reduced by trial and appellate courts.

James Lowe, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, declined to comment.

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