3rd Circuit Vacates Volvo Class Certification

     (CN) – A federal appeals court dealt a setback to a class suing Volvo over defective sunroof drainage systems, sending class certification back to a lower court for clarification.
     Joanne Neale and Keri Hay filed the class action complaint against Volvo Cars of North America LLC and Volvo Car Corporation in 2010 for breach of warranty, misrepresentation and fraud.
     The lawsuit claims that, since 2000, Volvo has sold vehicles with sunroofs that clog with debris and allow water to drain into the interiors of the cars, damaging electrical components and carpeting. It alleges the company knew of the defects by 2005 and did not notify customers.
     When Neale and Hay took their cars to be serviced by Volvo technicians, they were told the problem was common, the complaint states.
     A New Jersey district court granted statewide class certifications in 2013, ordering classes to be organized in Massachusetts, Florida, New Jersey, California, Maryland and Hawaii.
     But Judge Brooks Smith of the Third Circuit sent certification back to the district court on Wednesday, agreeing with Volvo that the lower court judge did not sufficiently lay out the claims and issues to be dealt with in each individual state.
     “This lack of clarity, combined with the district court’s failure to address in detail or list the precise claims subject to class treatment, means that we would be required to engage in some level of guesswork were we to try to piece together the class claims,” Smith wrote. “We will not attempt to do so.”
     The district court also glossed over the details of shared damages among the class, Smith wrote, broadly defining class members as those with defective sunroofs and not considering points that could differentiate, and thus disqualify, class members. Those factors include whether they had used or new vehicle that were damaged and whether there was actually any causal relationship between the defect and the damages in their cars.
     Smith ordered the New Jersey district court to provide a complete list of class claims, defenses and issues for each of the six statewide classes.

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