February 12, 2021
LANSING – Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel’s office is asking the Michigan Supreme Court to hear a lawsuit filed against Ford Motor Co. (Ford) so that the Court can revisit its interpretation of an exemption contained in the Michigan Consumer Protection Act (MCPA). Under the Court’s current interpretation, wide swaths of the economy are exempt from liability under the MCPA, opening consumers to significant risk.
Plaintiffs in the lawsuit, Cyr, et al v Ford Motor Co. (MSC No. 160927), assert that Ford violated the MCPA based on allegedly defective transmissions in some Ford vehicles.
Originally filed in Wayne County, the suit reached the Supreme Court on plaintiffs’ application for leave to appeal a Court of Appeals decision holding that Ford was exempt from the MCPA. The Supreme Court initially declined to hear the case, but plaintiffs filed a motion requesting that the Court reconsider the denial of leave to appeal.
The Attorney General’s office supports plaintiffs’ motion for reconsideration and submitted an amicus brief Thursday urging the Court to grant that motion, hear the case and ultimately revisit two of its past decisions that weaken the MCPA – Smith v Globe Life Insurance, 460 Mich 446 (1999) and Liss v Lewiston-Richards Inc., 478 Mich 203 (2007).
Smith and Liss interpret an exemption contained in Section 4(1)(a) of the MCPA as applying whenever the general transaction is specifically authorized by law, regardless of whether the specific misconduct alleged is prohibited. Under this interpretation, members of any industry that is “generally regulated” are deemed “specifically exempt” from the MCPA, thereby providing a free pass for misconduct under the MCPA, regardless of how egregious.
If the Supreme Court agrees to hear Cyr v Ford, the Attorney General’s office requests that it overrule Smith and Liss and interpret the Section 4(1)(a) exemption in a manner that aligns with the purpose of the MCPA—the protection of consumers.
“For too long, the Supreme Court’s erroneous interpretation has gutted this critical law and weakened this office’s ability to help consumers. It is time to breathe life back into the Michigan Consumer Protection Act and revive the law’s original purpose, protecting Michigan’s residents from unscrupulous businesses,” Nessel said. “I hope the Michigan Supreme Court recognizes this opportunity to right a wrong and will revisit its interpretation for the benefit of Michigan consumers.”