The Florida federal judge overseeing the multidistrict litigation (MDL) over defective Takata air bag inflators linked to 10 deaths rejected proposed class action claims of deceptive business practices by automakers brought on behalf of used auto parts dealers. U.S. District Judge Federico Moreno said the claims failed to specify which vehicles the parts dealers bought. The judge rejected claims brought by the Automotive Recycling Association over alleged purchases of vehicles that were recalled for the air bag defect made by three Florida used auto parts dealers, saying the trade group failed to allege the makes of the cars the dealers bought. Judge Moreno said:
Therefore, it’s impossible to tell from the complaint which of the automakers that used Takata air bags – Honda, BMW, Mazda, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Subaru or Toyota – would be responsible for the alleged violations of 28 states’ deceptive trade practice laws, as well as the Florida Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act.
Judge Moreno dismissed claims against Fuji Industries LTD, a Subaru manufacturer. He rejected fraudulent misrepresentation and concealment claims as well. Even though the complaint listed all the vehicles recalled for the air bags, the judge said that this didn’t illuminate which ones the dealers had actually purchased. He wrote:
[C]ontrary to ARA’s assertion, the complaint does not indicate the [parts dealers] purchased a vehicle manufactured by each automotive defendant. lt would require a leap in logic to conclude that the purchase of ”recalled vehicles” equates to the purchase of vehicles manufactured by each automotive defendant.
Since its allegations aren’t traceable to the action of any of the automakers, Judge Moreno said that the Automotive Recycling Association lacks standing to bring its claims. The MDL centers on Takata air bags that have been recalled worldwide because of the highly publicized defect that car buyers say makes the inflators prone to explode spewing chemicals or fragments at vehicle occupants.
The car buyers first filed suit in November 2014. Subsequently, a second amended complaint was filed with 106 counts against Takata and Honda. As we have reported, Honda is the automaker with the most Takata air bags. The amendment includes claims of fraud, breach of warranty, unjust enrichment, negligence, Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act violations, as well as other consumer protection claims. The amended complaint was filed after the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation centralized more than 50 proposed class actions in the Florida federal court.
Judge Moreno ruled on March 2 that Takata can redact only information unrelated to air bags in the documents it produces in discovery. He adopted part of the recommendations of a special master in December, finding that Takata could redact “irrelevant” information within seven categories, including pricing, nonpublic financial information, design, and products not sold in the U.S., but only if that information isn’t related to air bags. The case is in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida.
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