Suzuki Announces Consumers Union Must Stand Trial to Face Rigged Testing ChargesBREA, Calif.--Nov. 3, 2003--Suzuki Motor Corporation announced today that the U.S. Supreme Court has cleared the way for Suzuki's product disparagement lawsuit against Consumers Union to proceed to trial. Denying Consumers Union's petition for review, according to George F. Ball, Suzuki's managing counsel, the Supreme Court left standing the decision of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit that upheld Suzuki's right to a jury trial on its charges that Consumers Union rigged its 1988 testing of the Suzuki Samurai and then repeatedly lied about the test results. Consumers Union, the publisher of Consumer Reports magazine, has thus failed in its last legal maneuver to avoid facing public scrutiny of its dishonest Samurai testing.
In commenting upon the Supreme Court's decision, Suzuki's managing counsel, George F. Ball, stated:
"Suzuki is very pleased it will finally be able to present its evidence of Consumers Union's test-rigging to a California jury. While serving as a marketing and fund raising tool for Consumers Union, its false Samurai claims continue to severely damage Suzuki and its dealers. The ultimate winners in this case, however, will be consumers as the long hidden facts come to light. The evidence that Suzuki has discovered in its lawsuit shows that key executives from Consumers Union rigged the Samurai tests and misled the public about the Samurai's performance in those tests. By refusing to shield Consumers Union from accountability before a jury, the Supreme Court's action supports the principle that the First Amendment protects honest reporting but it does not protect publishers from a jury trial where there is evidence that the publisher knowingly deceived its readers."
Suzuki has been fighting for the opportunity to present its case against Consumers Union to a jury since 1996. Suzuki's 1996 lawsuit challenged statements made by Consumers Union when, in its 60th Anniversary issue of Consumer Reports, and elsewhere, Consumers Union repeated the long-discredited claims that tests it conducted in 1988 showed the Suzuki Samurai "easily rolls over in turns."
In the court of appeals decision, which the Supreme Court declined to review, Judge Wallace Tashima, writing for the majority, ruled that "(a) reasonable jury could find by clear and convincing evidence that CU sought to produce a predetermined result in the Samurai test." He emphasized that at the time Consumers Union criticized the Samurai in 1988, "CU needed to boost its revenues to complete its capital campaign (for a new building)" and that "(t)he evidence of financial motive dovetails with the evidence of test-rigging."
According to the Ninth Circuit's concurring opinion, authored by Judge Susan Graber, "a reasonable jury (could) find ... that what CU discovered was that the Suzuki Samurai did not roll over 'easily' in turns, but had to be coaxed."
Suzuki was also represented in its Opposition to Consumers Union's Supreme Court Petition by Robert Fiske of Davis, Polk & Wardwell, and Gene Schaerr of Sidley, Austin, Brown & Wood. Additional information about Suzuki's case against Consumers Union can be found at www.suzuki-consumersunion.com.
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