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West v. Carfax

This lawsuit was brought as a class action to remedy the allegedly misleading practices of Carfax in suggesting to consumers that Carfax Vehicle History Reports were based on accident data provided from all 50 states, when in fact Carfax’s database does not include police accident data from 23 states. The complaint sought rescission of the price of Carfax reports and/or actual damages and an injunction requiring disclosure of the limitations of the Carfax database. The parties, however, agreed to a class action settlement that would have provided neither damages nor disclosure of the actual scope of the Carfax database. The primary relief offered to class members would be coupons worthless to any class member who does not buy a used car in the next three years. In addition, because the means of providing notice of the settlement was inadequate, the majority of the class was unlikely even to know that a settlement had occurred.

Public Citizen filed objections to the proposed settlement on behalf of 17 individual Carfax customers and the Center for Auto Safety. The trial court approved the settlement, and we appealed on behalf of the objectors. The Ohio Court of Appeal then ruled in our favor, reversing the trial court’s approval of the settlement based on inadequacies in the notice and the court’s failure to failing to determine the number of claims made or likely to be made, and the probable redemption rate for the vouchers offered.

Carfax and class counsel then sought review in the Ohio Supreme Court, which was denied.