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Tuesday, July 23, 2024 | Back issues
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Judge Tosses Ford Effort to Block More Discovery

(CN) - A federal judge rejected the Ford Motor Company's appeal of a magistrate judge's order that it engage in additional discovery in a case involving alleged accidental acceleration of vehicles.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Cheryl Eifert issued her order on September 22. In early October, Ford Motor Company filed its motion, appealing the order.

In it, Ford said, "Judge Eifert has worked diligently to manage the discovery process in this case," but that "Plaintiffs' broad theory of liability -- that the Electronic Throttle Control systems in 34 different vehicles are defective because they are not 'fault tolerant' and cause unintended acceleration -- has resulted in equally broad discovery requests."

"[Because] Plaintiffs have refused to (or cannot) articulate what they believe causes unintended acceleration in the class vehicles, Plaintiffs have unfairly forced Judge Eifert to work even harder to limit their requests to a reasonable and proportional scope," the motion continued.

Last week, Chief U.S. District Judge Robert Chambers found that Eifert's discovery order addressed two substantive areas of relevant information: Ford's engineering of the electronic throttle system, and its receipt and investigation of unintended acceleration incidents.

"Ford assails the discovery order by focusing on the undeniably voluminous, costly, and contentious discovery already produced, which has consumed thousands of hours of lawyers', witnesses' and Ford employees' time and attention," Chambers wrote. "Ford also complains that this new discovery is unduly burdensome, in that depositions and computer document searches impose substantial expenses on Ford, but are unlikely to produce meaningful evidence for Plaintiffs."

Judge Chambers acknowledge Ford "has expended substantial time and resources to comply with discovery to this point."

Nonetheless, he said he was "satisfied that overall discovery ordered by the Magistrate Judge is reasonable and proportional."

"It is apparent that the Magistrate Judge examined the particular circumstance of each of the custodians from whom Plaintiffs sought a hard-drive search," he said. "The discovery Order identifies each Ford employee whose files must be searched in full with new search terms and those whose files are to be subjected to a limited search for specific matters.'

"Further, two Ford representatives were scheduled for depositions, which Plaintiffs apparently cancelled, so Ford objects to rescheduling and re-preparing them. Plaintiffs'' explanation was accepted, implicitly, by the Magistrate Judge, and this Court also accepts it," Chambers wrote.

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