DETROIT (Reuters) - An Ohio state court awarded $2 billion in damages to commercial truck dealers who sued Ford Motor Co., saying that a program that offered unpublished discounts effectively overcharged some dealers.
The Court of Common Pleas for Cuyahoga County, Ohio, issued its decision on Friday in the suit, initially filed in 2002, according to Ford and the plaintiffs.
"This was hotly contested but the law and the facts are what they are," said James Lowe, an attorney with the Cleveland, Ohio law firm Lowe, Eklund, Wakefield and Mulvihill, which brought the initial suit on behalf of Westgate Ford Truck Sales in Youngstown, Ohio.
The ruling, by Judge Peter J. Corrigan, said that Ford made the dealers pay a total of $800 million more than they should have for nearly 475,000 medium- and heavy-duty trucks, including tractor-trailers and bulldozers.
The damages include $1.2 billion in interest and were calculated based on the formula that was used by a jury in February to award $4.5 million to the lead plaintiff in the lawsuit, Westgate Ford.
Ford said it will appeal the decision, which was certified as a class action on behalf of more than 3,100 dealers nationwide.
"We believe that the trial court committed significant legal errors," Ford spokesman John Stoll said. "We continue to believe that the CPA program caused no harm to our dealers. Rather, it brought significant benefit to the dealers."
Ford sold its medium- and heavy-truck business to Daimler AG in 1998.
In its annual report to shareholders this year, Ford, which earned $6.6 billion in profits in 2010, warned investors it could face “substantial” damages if it lost the suit and if the judge applied the formula from the February ruling.
The CPA program offered discounts on medium to heavy-duty trucks -- used in snow plows, dump trucks and other heavy vehicles -- to dealers who asked for them depending on their profitability, Lowe said.
The program violated the law by offering merchandise at unpublished prices, Lowe said.
Lowe and two other lawyers previously won a $10.4 million verdict against Ford on behalf of a woman who became a quadriplegic after her Ford Explorer was struck from behind, The New York Times reported, citing the law firm's web site.