Deere Faces 13 Suits on Right to Repair

Alabama Plaintiff Added to Right-to-Repair Lawsuits Filed in Illinois Court

Todd Neeley
By  Todd Neeley , DTN Staff Reporter
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A 13th lawsuit alleging antitrust violations by John Deere on the right-to-repair issue was filed this week in a federal court in Illinois. (DTN file photo)

LINCOLN, Neb. (DTN) -- A 13th right-to-repair class-action lawsuit has been filed against John Deere, making 10 such lawsuits now in the U.S. District Court for the District of Northern Illinois.

Last week, the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation consolidated nine of the cases in the Illinois court, including another new lawsuit filed on May 25.

The latest lawsuit was filed by Tuscaloosa, Alabama, resident Gary DeLoach. The lawsuit alleges DeLoach "purchased a tractor from a reseller of tractors. When in need of repairs for his tractors, Plaintiff Gary DeLoach was forced to purchase DRS (repair and maintenance services) from a dealership in Alabama, for which he was overcharged."

On May 25, DeLine Farms filed an antitrust lawsuit in the same court. DeLine operates farms in Missouri, Arkansas, Illinois, Mississippi and Tennessee.

Also consolidated in the Illinois court are actions brought by Forest River Farms in North Dakota; Plum Ridge Farms Ltd. v. Deere in Illinois; Daniel Brown, the owner of Otsego Forestry Services in New York; Arkansas-based Eagle Lake Farms Partnership; Virginia-based Lloyd Family Farms; Franklin County, Alabama, farmer Trinity Dale Wells; Alfalfa County, Oklahoma, farmer Monty Ferrell; and Tennessee farmer David Underwood from a federal court in Tennessee.

Two other cases are not a part of the Illinois consolidation, including lawsuits filed by Burke, Virginia, resident Samantha Casselbury in the U.S. District Court for the District of Central Illinois, and by Greenwood, Minnesota-based Hapka Farms Inc. in the U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota.

All the cases allege John Deere violated the Sherman Act and seek damages for farmers who paid for repairs from John Deere dealers beginning on Jan. 12, 2018, to the present.

The cases allege the company has monopolized the repair service market for John Deere brand agricultural equipment with onboard central computers known as engine control units, or ECUs.

In a June 2 statement to DTN, Deere said for more than 180 years, the company has "empowered" customers to maintain and repair their own equipment.

"That's why we provide tools, parts, training videos, manuals, and remote access for customers to work on their machines," the company said.

"John Deere equipment is manufactured to the highest engineering standards to maximize performance while protecting the safety and health of our customers and the environment. While we support the customers right to maintain and repair their products, we do not support customers modifying embedded software due to risks related to safety, emissions compliance and the uncertainty it creates in the aftermarket."

Deere said it already offers a variety of tools to farmers to help maintain and repair their equipment. That includes access to repair manuals, Customer Service ADVISOR, a diagnostic and information tool that customers and independent repair shops can purchase from dealers or online directly from John Deere as of May 2022.

In addition, the company said it provides JDLink, which connects a machine's information to the web and can alert customers to issues as they develop and provide other useful information like location and status.

Deere said it also provides Connected Support, which allows dealers to remotely analyze, clear and refresh diagnostic trouble codes in "near real time" to isolate potential issues with a customers' machines.

The right to repair increasingly has become an issue in agriculture and other industries with state legislatures introducing bills in at least 32 states, including bills in 21 states in 2021. A bill failed to pass in the Nebraska Legislature earlier this year.

In September 2018, the Equipment Dealers Association, a trade and lobbying group that represents John Deere and other manufacturers, committed to make repair tools, software and diagnostics available to the public by Jan. 1, 2021.

In March 2022, Deere announced the May release of the "Customer Service ADVISOR," the tool that was to be released for purchase in January 2021.

Read more on DTN:

"Court Consolidates Deere Repair Cases," https://www.dtnpf.com/…

"Deere Right-to-Repair Lawsuits Grow," https://www.dtnpf.com/…

"Right-to-Repair Bill Offered in Senate," https://www.dtnpf.com/…

"Ag Groups Ask FTC to Investigate Deere," https://www.dtnpf.com/…

Todd Neeley can be reached at todd.neeley@dtn.com

Follow him on Twitter @DTNeeley

Todd Neeley