Class Action Lawsuits Address Damage Caused by Tractor Hydraulic Fluid

White, Graham, Buckley & Carr L.L.C. partner Bryan White is currently representing plaintiffs in three class action lawsuits in which a misleading product label for tractor hydraulic fluid (THF) has resulted in significant damage to tractor equipment used throughout the nation.

The cases — Hornbeck v. Orscheln Farm and Home, Hornbeck v. Tractor Supply Company, and Miller v. O’Reilly Automotive, Inc. – allege that the hydraulic fluid was mislabeled as “303” THF, which was discontinued in the 1970s after the use of sperm whale oil — a main ingredient — was outlawed. Still, a product represented as the “303” THF was being sold at various farm and construction supply stores in Missouri and other states despite including a lesser quality, damaging ingredient.

The retail chains and manufacturing companies listed in the complaints are accused of making false promises that their 303 THF products protected farm, construction and logging equipment from wear and damage. Rather, the plaintiffs allege that the THF products do not meet the implied specifications and actually cause harm, increased wear and damage to consumers’ equipment.

Each plaintiff alleges that manufacturers and sellers of THF deceptively and illegally traded on the obsolete and non-existent “303” designation. The class action complaint further explains, “because there is no known ‘303’ specification, there is no way for manufacturers, sellers, or anyone else to truthfully claim the products meet or is in compliance with any such specification.”

The class actions, each filed in Cass County, Mo., accuse the companies of violating the Missouri Merchandising Practices Act, breach of express warranty, breach of implied warranty, fraudulent misrepresentation, negligent misrepresentation and unjust enrichment.

In a related matter, the Missouri Department of Agriculture has also issued a Consumer Protection Alert notifying farmers that “these products are misbranded because they fail to meet any current tractor manufacturer’s specifications.”

The Department issued the alert to “protect tractor owners from equipment damage,” after finding that all 14 different types of 303 fluids “failed to meet current specifications and were found to be underperforming to the point that damage was likely to result from use.”