Mercedes-Benz Drivers May Amend Rims Suit

     (CN) – Consumers may amend claims that Mercedes-Benz sells cars with supposedly state-of-the-art rims that warp or fracture, costing consumers millions, a magistrate judge ruled.
     Vincent Luppino and Cliff Stern filed a putative nationwide class action in Newark, N.J. in 2009, claiming that Mercedes-Benz USA LLC and Daimler AG knowingly misrepresented the quality of certain 17-inch to 19-inch wheels in print, online, and television ads since 2006.
     Though the AMG and non-AMG wheels are made of a lightweight alloy designed to withstand various difficult on and off-road terrains, they bend, deform, dent, warp, or fracture – even if the driver dodges potholes – the complaint states.
     While the rims supposedly meet “high standards for safety, dependability and performance – not to mention aesthetics,” according to a 2006 catalog, the plaintiffs say the wheels are defective.
     The complaint further alleges that Mercedes-Benz of North America and its German parent company failed to honor their four-year, 50,000-mile warranty.
     Plus, the manufacturers forced consumers to incur a total of $5 million in out-of-pocket costs for necessary repairs or replacements the companies refused to cover.
     The plaintiffs’ third amended complaint sought compensatory and treble damages, as well as a tolling of the statute of limitations on claims that Mercedes violated the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act and the New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act.
     Nearly four years after the original complaint was filed, U.S. District Judge Dennis Cavanaugh held in September 2013 that a special master should oversee discovery.
     After the drivers amended their complaint a fourth time to add a breach of implied warranty claim against Daimler, the German company was dismissed as a defendant.
     U.S. District Judge Jose Linares ordered a fifth amended complaint on March 17, 2014, so the plaintiffs could omit all claims against Daimler.
     The plaintiffs then filed a motion to amend to add a breach of implied warranty claim against Mercedes about a month later, which U.S. Magistrate Judge Joseph Dickson granted Sept. 4.
     The judge tossed aside the defendant’s claim that the amendment is “unduly” delayed.
     “Defendant argues that plaintiffs wasted previous opportunities to amend the complaint and that waiting ‘until the eve of their class certification deadline’ qualifies as undue delay under Rule 15,” the unpublished ruling states. “The court finds defendant’s argument ultimately unpersuasive. Although defendant argues that the passage of two years justifies a finding of undue delay, it fails to point to any resulting prejudicial burden.”
     Dickson later added: “The court agrees that plaintiff could have asserted this theory against the defendant at an earlier stage in the litigation; however, despite this head-scratching delay, there is no prejudice to the defendant and no real burden on the court.”
     The judge accepted the plaintiffs’ claim that their amendment “does not inject any new factual allegations” and that “the importance of adding [the] claim” only crystallized recently when they received and inspected a large supply of wheels from New Jersey dealerships.
     “Here, plaintiff has represented to the court that no additional discovery will be needed to add this claim for implied breach of merchantability and thus no prejudice will result,” Dickson wrote.

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