Friday, May 31, 2013

Class Action Settlements--a Trap for the Unwary!

You're going through your mail, and, in among the bills and junk mail, there it is--a legal-looking envelope that has a title like "somebody v. corporation".  If you're like most of us, you get one of these almost every month.  You open it up and probably just glance at it, then, more likely than not, you set it aside and don't give it a second thought, figuring you may get a check for $5 or $20 some time in the future. 

If this is a class action concerning a car or other vehicle, you may have just made a mistake that could cost you tens of thousands of dollars!

Why?  Because you may have a perfectly good Lemon Law case, which entitles you to have your vehicle bought back, but you are on your way to giving up that right forever.

Here are two recent cases in point.  First, is the Ford Super Duty diesel truck, with the 6.0 liter engine.  Those of us in the industry have long known that these engines are problem-prone, and I have personally gotten dozens of these trucks bought back for my clients, a full repurchase that gets them their down payment and monthly payments and gets their loan paid off--a lot of money.  

Recently, however, there was a class action settlement regarding 6.0 liter Ford trucks.  A notification, like the one I talked about, was sent out to all known owners.  Under the terms of the agreement, these owners will get a relatively small sum of money instead of a buyback.

The scary part is that, under the terms of the settlement, unless you notified Ford in writing that you did not want to be included in the settlement, you were automatically included and you would be forever barred from bring a Lemon Law case and getting a buyback!  

To make matters more complicated, you had to get that notification to a specific address, in a specific format, and by a specific date, or you waived your rights.  If you got that notification and just set it aside, you are out of luck.

Another recent example is the Hyundai air bag system class settlement.  Again, there was a settlement that provided for owners to receive a modest payment, in exchange for giving up their right to a buyback, and you were included, unless you sent in a letter saying you wanted to be excluded.  In this case, your letter had to be postmarked by a certain date, not received by a certain date.

So, if you get any kind of a notice concerning a class action settlement that mentions a vehicle you currently own, read it very carefully.  I would suggest that you also contact a local Lemon Law attorney to get their advice on the matter.  If you don't, it could cost you dearly!

I'll have a new topic for you for my next post.  In the meantime, you can get more information from my websites San Diego Lemon Law and When Bad Cars Happen to Good People.

See you next time!  

© 2013 Douglas C. Sohn

Doug Sohn is a San Diego attorney specializing in Lemon Law cases.  He is a native of San Diego and lives in the North County with his wife, Cheri, and 3 of their 5 children.  Cheri also works with Doug in the practice.