DaimlerChrysler Class Action Defense Case- Chin v. DaimlerChrysler: New Jersey Federal Court Holds California Law Applies And Class Action Materially Influenced Automobile Recall Decision Justifying Award Of Attorney Fees
Class Action Against Car Manufacturer was a Catalyst Behind Recall Program thus Entitling Plaintiffs to Attorney Fee Award as "Prevailing Party" under California law New Jersey Federal Court Holds
In March 1994, following consumer complaints, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) opened an investigation into whether the Bendix 10 ABS had a safety-related defect warranting a recall. In October 1995 plaintiffs filed a putative class action against DaimlerChrysler for, inter alia, violations of the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act, 15 U.S.C. § 2301, alleging that Chrysler vehicles equipped with Bendix 10 ABS were defective. And in April 1996, Chrysler voluntarily recalled vehicles equipped with Bendix 10 ABS, thereby ending the NHTSA's investigation. Chin v. DaimlerChrysler Corp., 461 F.Supp.2d 279, 281 (D. N.J. 2006). But in March 1996, plaintiffs had amended their class action complaint to allege that Chrysler vehicles equipped with Bendix 9 ABS also were defective, as the product was "largely interchangeable [with the Bendix 10] and suffer[ed] from virtually identical defects." Id. The NHTSA informed Chrysler in September 1996 that it would begin investigating customer complaints involving the Bendix 9 ABS, and soon thereafter the company voluntarily recalled vehicles equipped with Bendix 9 thereby ending the NHTSA investigation. Id.
Defense attorneys moved to dismiss the amended class action complaint, but the district court denied the motion in March 1997 and the following month Chrysler publicly announced its recall of vehicles with Bendix 9 ABS. Chin, at 281. However, defense attorneys successfully defeated plaintiffs' effort to certify the lawsuit as a class action: in September 1998, the district court denied plaintiffs motion for class certification on the ground that plaintiffs had failed to demonstrate that common questions of law would predominate over individual issues, as required by Rule 23(b)(3), because the court would be required to apply the laws of 52 jurisdictions if a nationwide class were certified. Id., at 281-82. As the district court observed, "[f]or nearly all intents and purposes, Plaintiffs' class-action came to an end" with the denial of the motion to certify a class action. Id., at 281.