My car has a defect. Can I bring a class action suit against the manufacturer?

We hear about design or manufacturing defects in cars all the time in the news, such as gas pedals sticking and tires which are defective. Unfortunately, these types of manufacturing and design defects are all too common, and while some are life threatening others merely bring down the value of the car and thankfully never result in actual physical injury.

If the defect at issue has caused you to be in an accident, and someone is injured, you have a cause of action against the manufacturer. However, even if you’ve not suffered any personal injuries or out of pocket costs because of a defect you may still have a cause of action against the automobile manufacturer.

“No Injury” Class Action Lawsuits

In “no injury” class action litigation, a group of car owners are grouped in a class alleging that their automobile has a product or manufacturing defect, but that the defect only manifests itself in some, but not all, of the vehicles out on the road. However, because of this defect, the allegation is that the car is reduced in value

No injury class action lawsuits make a lot of sense from the consumer’s perspective. If you’ve bought a car that has a potential defect its resale value is lower than it would be otherwise. Further, even if you haven’t had to incur any money to fix the issue yet, you may in the future, and/or you may be in an accident because of it in the future if it cannot be fixed or has not manifested itself yet. These types of claims are typically small and would not be worth each individual car owner suing on their own. Therefore, many of the reasons for class action lawsuits are met. (See also “What is a Class Action?)

These Types of Class Actions Are an Evolving Area of the Law

While these class actions make a lot of sense, from the prospective of the plaintiffs automobile manufacturers do not like them, and have fought against them. As a result no injury class actions are still an evolving area of the law. Some of the issues that need to be overcome in such litigation include proving standing, causation, calculation of damages and also whether the class action procedure is the best mechanism for these types of claims.

Standing is a legal requirement which considers whether the person has had enough of an injury or damages to have a sufficient stake in the litigation to sue. Causation issues in these cases typically concern whether a causal link can be shown between the defect alleged and the economic loss alleged. The damages calculation issue comes from the fact that it can be difficult to pin point what the exact loss in value there is to each automobile since so many factors are involved. Finally, the law says that class actions are not appropriate in all situations and defendants often argue that these types of lawsuits are not allowed within this procedural framework.

As these automobile consumer class actions evolve Starr Austen & Miller is monitoring the legal rules and climate and will keep this type of cause of action in mind for cases where it may be appropriate.