In a historic move, on July 23, 2010 the Fifth District Court of Appeal for the State of Florida reinstated a jury’s verdict in favor of a purchaser of a new 2006 Ford Mustang after the trial court had taken away the verdict following trial. The consumer, Nelson Medina, appealed from a final judgment setting aside his jury verdict pursuant to a claim brought against Ford Motor Company for a defective 2006 Ford Mustang. Medina brought suit under Florida’s Motor Vehicle Warranty Enforcement Act, popularly known as the Florida Lemon Law, and under the Federal Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act. The order setting aside the jury verdict was reversed and the case was remanded to the trial court to reinstate the jury’s verdict awarding Medina a full refund under the Florida Lemon Law. As a result, Medina will now also have the right to seek compensation for his attorneys pursuant to a provision of the Florida Lemon Law that allows a consumer who prevails in a Lemon Law action to recover for the fees incurred by the consumer’s lawyer.
Medina purchased his new 2006 Mustang from a Seminole County Ford dealership on February 26, 2006. The base price of his new 2006 Mustang was $21,041 and with financing charges Medina had invested over $27,000 to purchase the vehicle. Medina recalled, within two months after his April 2006 purchase, “I thought that the engine would never stop when I wanted to halt at a stop light.” He was exasperated, “Worse, it revved.”
Medina was not quite the proud owner of his new 2006 Mustang any longer. Medina’s attorney, Ted Greene of Krohn & Moss, Ltd. recalls, “Medina’s agitation was highly palpable. One can’t be blamed if one has to cope with a vehicle that shows problems within two months of its purchase.”
There was more bad news yet to come, “My new 2006 Mustang would idle at 3000 rpms or above for around 20 seconds.” Medina testified in court, “I have a reason to believe that this car is unsafe.” Medina’s roommate who had once been a passenger in the Mustang also confirmed that the engine over revved.
Medina’s cup of woes was not full yet, “The gas tank did not fill properly.” He notified the dealership of the problems. Ford attempted to repair the car and was unable to solve the problem with the gas tank. Ford informed Medina that all the Ford Mustangs had a problem with their gas tanks. Ford issued a Technical Service Bulletin that suggested the consumer should find a gas station with a special pump which would facilitate filling the tank properly.
The dealership also blamed the car’s computer for the engine problems and pinned it on the way Medina drove his vehicle. Ford returned Medina’s car to him indicating there was nothing wrong with the car. The 2006 Mustang became a porch decoration for Medina’s house. Medina explained at trial that the only time he drove the Mustang was because he wanted to keep its fluids circulated.
Medina was convinced that the 2006 Mustang was essentially a hazard to him and to the others on the road because of its improper operation. In an effort to resolve his case prior to litigation, Medina went through a non-binding Lemon Law Arbitration Hearing before the Florida Attorney General’s Office on June 12, 2007 and lost by a 2-1 vote.
After the arbitration board dismissed his claim, Medina was undeterred and filed suit in Seminole County Circuit Court. As Ford was uninterested in taking back his defective Mustang, the case was ultimately heard by a Seminole county jury of Medina’s peers. Ted Greene of Krohn & Moss, Ltd. tried the case on behalf of Medina and obtained a full refund for him.
At trial, Ford vehemently denied the presence of any defect in the car. Ford tried to cash in on the tests done by its mechanics, which purportedly indicated nothing was wrong with the car. Ford even refuted the presence of any anomaly pertaining to rpm fluctuation. In fact, Ford blamed Medina for the way he drove his vehicle and operated the clutch, which it claimed caused the rpm fluctuation. Ford’s expert at trial testified, “The rpm fluctuations were not indicative of a defect.” He went on to add, “The computer was trying to compensate for Medina’s faulty driving habits.”
The jury disagreed with Ford’s witnesses and found in Medina’s favor under both the Magnuson-Moss Act and the Florida Lemon Law Act. On October 23, 2008 the jury returned a verdict in favor of Medina. They awarded him a full refund under the Florida Lemon Law among other relief.
Ford remained unrelenting and made a motion to the Seminole County Court requesting to set aside the verdict. The court granted Ford’s motion. On behalf of Medina, Ted Greene appealed to the Fifth District Court of Appeal for the State of Florida which reinstated the jury’s verdict on July 23, 2010 finding that sufficient evidence existed at trial to support the jury’s verdict and that it was improper for the trial court to have substituted its judgment for that of a jury of Medina’s peers. In doing so, the District Court of Appeal reaffirmed one of the primary legal principles of the foundation that makes our nation’s judicial system – the right to trial by jury.