LINCOLN, Neb. (DTN) – Nine farms across the country filed a consolidated right-to-repair class-action complaint against John Deere at the end of October. This was the next step after the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation in June consolidated 13 lawsuits filed across the country into one class action in an Illinois federal court.
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.
The new complaint filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Northern Illinois on Oct. 24, lists nine plaintiff farms including seven that originally filed complaints in various courts in the past year.
A number of other farms that originally filed individual lawsuits are not named as plaintiffs on the consolidated complaint.
The lawsuit, however, also includes “similarly situated” parties — typical of a class-action suit.
The plaintiffs include Alabama farmer Trinity Dale Wells; Florida-based Colvin Farms; Illinois-based Plum Ridge Farms, Ltd.; Tennessee farmer Blake Johnson; New York-based Robbins Family Grain, LLC; Minnesota-based Hapka Farms, Inc.; Eagle Lake Farms Partnership in Arkansas; England Farms and Harvesting, LLC in Texas; and Wilson Farms Land and Cattle Co. LLC in Missouri.
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.
In a June 2, 2022, statement to DTN, Deere said that 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 has Connected Support, which allows dealers to remotely analyze, clear and refresh diagnostic trouble codes in “near real-time” to isolate potential issues with customers’ machines.