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Sunday, June 23, 2024 | Back issues
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Court Overturns Nissan |Class Action Ruling

(CN) - Nissan's claims about its vehicles' high quality should not have caused it to lose a class action lawsuit related to dashboard bubbling, a Missouri appeals court ruled.

Nissan began to receive complaints about the dashboard of its Infiniti FX sport utility vehicle in 2005. The company offered an extended warranty in 2010.

Before Nissan made this offer, Robert Hurst filed a class-action lawsuit for violations of the Missouri Merchandising Practices Act.

The trial court certified a class of drivers who owned an Infiniti FX35 or FX45 from the model years 2003 through 2008.

At trial, class member Susan Oelke said she had expected the Infiniti to be a "higher quality" vehicle after learning about it from commercials and the marketing materials at the Nissan dealership.

Other class members made similar statements that they thought the Infiniti FX would be an "upscale," "luxury" vehicle.

Nathan Lyst, senior manager of Infiniti marketing communications, testified that Nissan was trying to market the FX as a "very refined" vehicle featuring "premium automotive machinery."

Hurst prevailed in the lawsuit, and the court ordered Nissan to pay $2,000 to each of the 326 members of the class. The plaintiffs were also awarded a total of $1.8 million in attorney's fees.

Nissan appealed, arguing that its statements about the cars' quality were inactionable puffery.

The Missouri Court of Appeals agreed and reversed the lower court's ruling in a decision written by Judge James E. Welsh.

He explained that advertisers are allowed some latitude for the "puffing of wares" without fear of having to defend their claims in court.

"Thus, a pasta maker may declare that it is 'America's Favorite Pasta' and Papa John's may proclaim 'Better Ingredients, Better Pizza' without incurring liability," Welsh wrote.

He added, "Indeed, to hold Nissan liable in this case under the MMPA would result in Nissan being liable to consumers because the consumers deemed their expectations unmet and would essentially obviate Nissan's limited warranty because basically everything would be guaranteed forever."

Also, Welsh noted, the plaintiffs are no longer entitled to attorney fees because they are not the prevailing party.

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