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Judge Narrows Claims Ford Must Face In Class Action Over Allegedly Defective Sunroofs

On January 16, 2018, Judge Ronald B. Leighton, of the United States District Court for the Western District of Washington, ruled that Ford Motor Company ("Ford") must face some of the claims in a proposed class action over allegedly defective sunroofs that can spontaneously shatter.

Plaintiffs, Jessica and Jacob Beaty ("Plaintiffs"), allege that the panoramic sunroofs in their vehicle, and sunroofs in other models produced by Ford and some of its subsidiary companies, are prone to shattering suddenly because of their flawed engineering. Plaintiffs compared the sound of the shattering events to a gunshot, and stated glass fragments can fall on the vehicles' occupants. The complaint states that some drivers were travelling at high speeds when the shattering occurred; additionally, the complaint claims that Ford either knew, or should have known, about this defect since as early as 2008, yet continues to sell or lease the affected models and has not disclosed the problem to its customers.

Judge Leighton rejected Ford's argument that Plaintiffs lack standing to bring the action, while Ford argued that Plaintiffs had not shown that the more than a dozen different Ford, Lincoln and Mercury vehicle models included in the claims were "substantially similar" to the 2013 Ford Escape Titanium they bought. The Judge, however, ruled that Plaintiffs had sufficiently pled that the alleged defects are similar across the vehicles, and that the question of similarity is part of the analysis for class certification, not standing.

Judge Leighton did dismiss two of the Plaintiffs' claims. Plaintiffs claimed that Ford breached its express warranties by selling cars with faulty sunroofs and by replacing shattered sunroofs with those affected by the same issue. The Judge dismissed this claim because Plaintiffs' warranty was already expired by the time they tried to get their sunroof fixed. Judge Leighton also dismissed Plaintiffs' claim that Ford had breached its implied warranties, ruling that Plaintiffs' interactions with Ford dealers were not fulsome enough to establish the kind of relationship with Ford that they would need to assert such a claim. Judge Leighton did, however, grant Plaintiffs leave to amend their complaint in order to replead these claims.

Ford is not the only auto manufacturer to be sued over the spontaneous shattering of sunroofs - Toyota, Hyundai, and Kia are facing similar lawsuits. Additionally, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is currently investigating Volkswagen and Audi over alleged defective sunroofs.

The legal team at SFMS has significant experience litigating consumer protection matters and class actions. If you have any questions regarding this subject or this posting, please contact Nick Lussier ([email protected]) or Chiharu Sekino ([email protected]). We can also be reached toll-free at (866) 540-5505.

Shepherd, Finkelman, Miller & Shah, LLP is a law firm with offices in California, Connecticut, Florida, New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania. SFMS is an active member of Integrated Advisory Group (www.iaginternational.org), which provides us with the ability to provide our clients with access to excellent legal and accounting resources throughout the globe. For more information about our firm, please visit us at www.sfmslaw.com.

Sources

Field, Emily. "Lexus Driver Claims Defective Sunroof Shatters." Law 360. Last modified on October 5, 2016.

Hill, Jon. "Judge Trims Claims Against Ford In Shattering Sunroof Suit." Law 360. Last modified on January 17, 2018.

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