A New Jersey U.S. District Court has denied in part and upheld in part Chrysler’s motion to dismiss a case in which vehicle owners allege the “drain tubes” and “other manufacturing flaws” in their sunroofs allowed water and moisture into the vehicle’s cabin, damaging the upholstery, electronics and other components. The judge gave the vehicle owners, who are seeking a nation-wide class action lawsuit, permission to file a third-amended complaint.
Eleven owners have made the allegations as part of a putative nation-wide class action, which would comprise individuals and entities who purchased the vehicles manufactured after June 20, 2014. The vehicles involved are the Jeep Patriot, Jeep Liberty, Jeep Compass, Jeep Commander, Jeep Cherokee, Jeep Grand Cherokee, Chrysler Town and Country and Chrysler 300.
Lead plaintiff Jay Miller claims he purchased a 2008 Jeep Patriot in April 2008. He alleges he “has observed and continues to observe” water leaking from the Patriot’s sunroof.
“As a result, Miller has incurred out-of-pocket expenses to address electrical problems and a musty or moldy smell inside the Jeep,” according to court documents.
After the original complaint was filed in February 2012, the defendant moved to transfer the case to the United States Bankruptcy Court that presided over the 2009 bankruptcy of “Old Chrysler.”
“Following the transfer, the parties entered into a stipulation and order that defined the boundaries of defendant’s liability in this action and remanded the matter back to the New Jersey U.S. District Court,” according to court documents.
In its motion to dismiss, Chrysler’s attorneys allege the second-amended complaint “violates” the terms of the bankruptcy court’s stipulation and order because “it is beyond dispute that more than half of the plaintiffs own vehicles are older than model-year 2010, i.e. vehicles manufactured prior to June 11, 2009.”
“This argument is unpersuasive,” the judge writes. “The court has no means of ascertaining precisely when the named plaintiffs’ vehicles were manufactured. Nor is the information important at this point. Even if defendant’s assertions regarding the dates-of-manufacture are correct, the SAC does not violate the bankruptcy court’s guidelines. … As such, the SAC is facially consistent with the stipulation and order.”
The judge also denied the defendant’s motion to dismiss on statute of limitations grounds.
In terms of the owners claim for breach of express warranty, the judge dismissed this claim without prejudice, meaning the plaintiffs can refile.
As for allegations of breach of implied warranty, the judge denied Chrysler’s motion to dismiss. The judge also denied Chrysler’s motion to dismiss the violation claim of the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act (MMWA), writing that “plaintiffs’ MMWA claim survives along with the implied warranty claim.”
On the other hand, the judge decided that the plaintiffs have “failed” to set forth a viable negligent misrepresentation claim.
“The SAC does not allege that any of the named plaintiffs detrimentally relied on an affirmative misrepresentation. … Plaintiffs, therefore, are barred from maintaining an omission-based negligent misrepresentation claim,” the judge writes, dismissing this claim with prejudice.
Reviewing the violation claim of the New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act (NJCFA), the judge writes, “Defendant argues that SAC fails to plead an actionable omission under the NJCFA because it fails to allege, ‘that Chrysler Group knew with certainty that the sunroofs on plaintiffs’ vehicles would leak. Although defendant is factually correct—the SAC does not allege that every class vehicle leaked or that defendant could foresee which ones would leak—this omission does not warrant dismissal. The allegations regarding service bulletins and consumer complaints support a reasonable inference that 1) defendant was certain that some class vehicles would leak because of faulty drainage tubes; 2) the named plaintiffs’ vehicles did in fact leak; and 3) when plaintiffs reported the leaks, defendant concealed or, at least, failed to disclose the defect that caused the problem. … Accordingly, the defendant’s motion [to dismiss this claim] is denied.”
The judge went on to deny Chrysler’s motion to dismiss allegations of unfair and deceptive acts and practices, as well as allegations of breach of contractual claims.
The judge did, however, dismiss allegations of unjust enrichment with prejudice.
“Plaintiffs may seek leave to file a third-amended complaint,” the judge concludes.