Court Rules Ford Trucks’ Claim Is Puffery

Advertising Law

A false advertising suit against Ford Motor Co. was limited after a federal court judge found the company’s “Built Ford Tough” claim is non-actionable puffery.

Brandon Kommer filed a putative class action lawsuit alleging that the truck company misled drivers about door handles that failed to latch properly in freezing temperatures. He told the court that he purchased his 2015 F-150 XLT SuperCrew truck in reliance upon the slogan “Built Ford Tough” and that the door handle problems made the company’s claim misleading.

Ford moved to dismiss the suit, arguing that the claim was non-actionable puffery.

U.S. District Court Judge Lawrence E. Kahn agreed, noting that Kommer relied upon advertisements that made no reference to the quality of the vehicles’ door handles.

“The statement that Ford vehicles are ‘Built Ford Tough’ is an ‘exaggerated and generalized claim[]’ similar to [those] determined to be puffery,” the court wrote, adding that at least one other federal court in Colorado has found the slogan to be puffery. “Accordingly, the advertisements on which Kommer’s affirmative misrepresentation claim is premised are non-actionable puffery, so that claim must be dismissed.”

Kommer’s suit retained some legs, however, as the court permitted him to amend his claim for misrepresentation by omission.

The plaintiff alleged that Ford had knowledge of the problems with the door handles when it issued two technical service bulletins to its dealers about the problem and how to remedy it, but failed to disclose the issue to consumers. The court, however, said that Kommer failed to plausibly plead an actual injury. But because Kommer’s failure was not a substantive deficiency—as found in his affirmative misrepresentation claim—Judge Kahn granted him 30 days to file an amended complaint.

To read the memorandum decision and order in Kommer v. Ford Motor Company, click here.

Why it matters: The New York federal court had no problem finding that the “Built Ford Tough” claim was too exaggerated and generalized to provide the basis for an affirmative misrepresentation suit. In addition, the court noted that the plaintiff allegedly relied upon advertisements that made no reference to the quality of the vehicles’ door handles, the basis for the lawsuit.

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