A class action lawsuit brought against Nissan North America, Inc. from 2017 alleging a number of its vehicles include a “defect” on their panoramic sunroofs that results in shattering under normal driving conditions continues to make its way through court. This week, U.S. District Judge William Orrick out of California certified claims from drivers in California, New York, Colorado and Florida.
The plaintiffs alleged that the panoramic sunroofs on a number of Nissan vehicles including the Maxima, Rogue, Pathfinder, Murano and Infiniti JX and QX60, have a “defect.” They and their cited experts allege that the sunroofs’ design makes them vulnerable to fracturing or shattering under normal driving conditions. Plaintiffs also argue that Nissan failed to disclose the alleged issue to consumers as required by consumer protection laws.
However, Nissan argued that its panoramic sunroofs comply with regulatory standards set by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). The company further argued that only 0.15% of its panoramic sunroofs shatter.
Nissan argued for summary judgment as it claimed the plaintiffs could not prove a “defect.” The car manufacturer also argued that plaintiffs failed to clearly identify the “defect.” The judge, however, noted in his order that claims made by plaintiffs are not for product liability but consumer protection.
“So the plaintiffs are under no obligation to establish that there is necessarily a defect in the sense that products liability law uses that term—such as, for instance, ‘design defect’ under California law,” the judge wrote. “Instead, a ‘defect’ is relevant to the consumer protection claims only to the extent that it shows it is something that Nissan was obligated to disclose or misrepresented.”
As such, the judge found a “genuine dispute of material fact about whether the alleged defect exists.”
The judge declined to certify the claims brought from Illinois due to the state’s consumer protection statutes while certifying those from California, New York, Colorado and Florida. Nissan also moved to exclude four of the plaintiffs’ “experts,” a motion the judge denied.
Orrick did agree with Nissan in part with respect to its request for summary judgment, writing in his order that the plaintiffs “advanced no actionable restitution or unjust enrichment theory for the purchase of used cars from entities other than Nissan.”
The judge denied additional summary judgment requests from Nissan. Whether Nissan misled consumers will need to be, in large part, decided by a jury, the judge ruled. A case management conference is set on the matter for September 20, 2022.