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Tuesday, February 20, 2024
Courthouse News Service
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Leaky Volvo Sunroof Case Nabs Class Certification

(CN) - A federal judge certified a class of thousands who claim Volvo knowingly sold them cars with sunroofs that let water leak onto safety-related electrical sensors and wiring.

Gregory Burns, Karen Collopy, David Taft, Svein Berg, Jeffrey Kruger, Joane Neale, Ken Hay and Kelly McGary filed a federal complaint in the District of New Jersey against Volvo Cars of North America LLC and Volvo Car Corp., on behalf of a nationwide class of current and former Volvo owners and lessees.

They alleged that the defective sunroof-drainage systems in their cars lets water get trapped in passenger compartment floor pans, which in turn damages interior components, carpets, and safety-related electrical sensors and wiring. Six Volvo vehicles models are identified in the case as having the defect: S40, S60, S80, V50, V70 (model years 2004 to present), XC9O (model years 2003 to present), and V50 (model years 2005 to present).

The plaintiffs claimed that Volvo had longstanding knowledge of the defect based on numerous consumer complaints as well as Volvo's internal communications and technical service bulletins.

Since 2009, each of the plaintiffs has allegedly paid hundreds of dollars for repairs, which they were told were not covered under warranty. Burns paid Garden State Volvo more than $250, McGary paid Volvo of Tampa about $700, and Hay spent nearly $775 in Maryland. After paying almost $100 to unclog her sunroof drain, Collopy paid nearly $1,200 to replace her carpet, following the advice of a Volvo Clinic technician in New Jersey.

Though Volvo claimed that it would be impossible for the plaintiffs to obtain class certification by proving that every potential member suffered water damage due to the alleged defect, U.S. District Judge Dennis Cavanaugh refused to dismiss the action in April 2011, noting that the plaintiffs had not even requested class certification at that point.

Volvo moved for summary judgment against each of the plaintiffs on July 3, 2012, and the plaintiffs filed opposition briefs and a motion for class certification in August.

On March 26, Judge Cavanaugh concluded that the plaintiffs met all requirements for state subclass certification.

The motion for a nationwide class failed, however, because it ignored "the state in which the transaction occurred, the state where the purchasers of the vehicles live, and the interests of the states in which the transactions took place," according to the ruling.

"Here, the record in this case clearly demonstrates that there were thousands of class vehicles sold in each of the six class states," Cavanaugh wrote. "Further, Volvo's own corporate designees testified that there were 100,000 vehicles sold during two years for only two of the six model at issue here, several thousand of which had records of 'sunroof repairs' or 'leak repair.' Thus, numerosity is established."

Volvo failed to acquire summary judgment.

"In finding that certification of plaintiffs' proposed statewide classes is warranted, the court finds that triable issues of fact exist," Cavanaugh wrote. "These issues include whether the design of the sunroof drainage systems were defectively designed, whether defendants knew of the defect but failed to disclose it to the class, and whether the maintenance instructions were inadequate and/or uniformly deficient. These issues are more than sufficient to warrant denial of defendants' individual motions for summary judgment."

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