Judges Deny Class Certification in Honda Lawsuit

A panel of judges denied an appeal which had sought to gain class action status in a lawsuit against Honda Motor Co. (Honda). The lawsuit alleged Honda sold its Pilots with defective power windows.

Circuit Court Judges Johnnie Rawlinson and Mary Murguia, and District Court Judge Jed Rakoff, served as panel members. They discussed Glenn Akhavein’s, a plaintiff expert, statements on an alleged power window defect. The panel decided to exclude Akavein’s testimony, which was “crucial for the plaintiff’s case,” according to the court’s opinion.

“The panel affirmed the district court’s order excluding plaintiff’s expert opinion, and denying class certification in a design defect case concerning 2003–2008 Honda Pilot vehicles,” a portion of the court opinion reads.

According to the majority opinion, Akhavein’s testimony did not cite industry standards and used a sample size of 26 parts from the Honda Pilots to establish a defect in more than 400,000 vehicles.

“The district court properly held that Akhavein’s opinion was unreliable due to: Akhavein’s failure to utilize a workable standard supporting his design defect theory; the lack of supporting studies or testing to demonstrate a common design defect; and deficiencies in Akhavein’s methodology,” a portion of the court opinion reads.

Phyllis Grodzitsky had filed a complaint in February 2012, alleging a power window defect in the Honda Odyssey, Pilot, Element, Accord, CR-V, Civic and Acura MDX from model years 2000 to 2011.

Side windows located in Honda vehicles are moved upward and downward by the window’s regulator, which is located inside of the door’s frame, according to court documents. However, according to vehicle buyers, “Honda knew through at least six identifiable sources that the regulator mechanism was insufficiently strong for the application.” According to the complaint, Honda windows were prone to being stuck open and breaking.

According to the opinion, Akhavein said the window regulators should never fail through the life of a car. The panel noted Akhavein was unable to cite an industry standard that would support his claim. The opinion also noted Akhavein admitting there was not a “direct correlation between his testing and failure of the window regulators,” the panel said he was unable to provide a scientific explanation.

Since Akhavein’s testimony was excluded, the panel “affirmed the denial of class certification.” The panel noted the class action bid relied on Akhavein’s opinion to establish a common cause for the defect.

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