Tractor Fluid Suit Preliminary Settlement Reached

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A Federal District Court judge in Missouri last week granted preliminary approval to a class action settlement providing partial reimbursement to customers who purchased OReilly 303 tractor hydraulic fluid in the state since July 20, 2013.

Several attorneys joined to file the class action suit in Missouri against OReilly Automotive Inc. and Omni Specialty Packaging over their manufacturing and sale of the 303 tractor hydraulic fluid in OReilly Automotive stores in the state. Omni Specialty Packaging declined to comment on the settlement. According to the preliminary settlement court documents, the defendants have denied and continue to deny all allegations made by the plaintiffs.

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In the suit, the plaintiffs claimed the defendants misled customers by supplying fluid labeled as 303 THF even though 303 tractor hydraulic fluid was obsolete, and there was no known 303 specification against which the fluid could be measured.

The Missouri Department of Agricultures Weights, Measures and Consumer Protection Division ordered Missouri retailers in late 2017 to immediately stop selling John Deere 303 tractor hydraulic fluids after determining the specification fails to meet modern performance standards. The weights and measures department tested 14 different JD 303 samples during 2017, and said it found all of them failed to meet current specifications and underperformed to the point that their use was likely to result in damage.

On March 15, the involved parties filed a joint motion for preliminary approval of a proposed class action settlement agreement that would provide cash payments to almost 20,000 members of the proposed settlement class. According to a court-approved class notice, each eligible member of the settlement class may receive a cash award equal to approximately 38 percent of their purchases of OReilly 303 tractor hydraulic fluid purchased in Missouri between July 20, 2013 and the present. This excludes those who purchased the product for resale.

As part of Judge Ortrie Smiths April 10 order preliminarily approving the proposed settlement, the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri scheduled a final fairness hearing for later this year on Dec. 16 in Kansas City, Missouri. After that hearing, the court may enter a final order and judgement in accordance with the settlement agreement.

John Deere developed JD303 nearly 60 years ago and replaced it in 1974 with J14B, which was replaced in 1978 with J20A. John Deere has declared all of those specifications obsolete and has two current specs – JDM-2020C and J20D – along with its genuine Hy-Gard fluid. Some lubricant marketers had continued marketing hydraulic tractor fluids labeled as meeting the 303 standard, but critics have said they do not meet the lubrication requirements of modern tractors and can harm them through effects such as damage to the spiral gear in the final drive and causing excessive wear in the planetaries.