District of New Jersey Denies Class Certification in Product Defect Case Against BMW

The District of New Jersey recently denied class certification in a putative class action alleging a product defect in BMW engines. Afzal v. BMW of North America, LLC concerned whether BMW defectively designed its car engine so that a component wears out too quickly and failed to disclose that defect to purchasers.

Two Plaintiffs, both California residents who allegedly suffered premature rod bearing wear, filed a putative class action raising various causes of action including violations of several California consumer protection statutes, breach of warranty, and fraud. Plaintiffs sought certification of two classes: (1) the Dealership Class and (2) the Warranty Class. The “Dealership Class” was defined as:

“All persons who after November 12, 2011, purchased a model year 2008 to 2013 BMW M3 (the “Class Vehicle”) in California from an authorized BMW dealership, and who resided in California at the time of that purchase, and who as of the date of the Court’s Certification Order, either 1. Currently owns a Class Vehicle with 120,000 miles or less; or 2. Currently or formerly owned a Class Vehicle and, when the Class Vehicle had 120,000 miles or less, incurred out-of-pocket costs to replace the connecting rod bearings in the Class Vehicle.”

The “Warranty Class” was defined as:

“All persons who after November 12, 2011, purchased a model year 2008 to 2013 BMW M3 (the “Class Vehicle”) that was within the temporal or mileage limits of BMW’s New Vehicle Limited Warranty (48 months/50,000 miles), and who resided in California at the time of that purchase.”

The District Court denied certification of both proposed classes.

First, the Dealership Class failed on numerosity grounds because the class definition was based in part on speculative information not included in the record, such as vehicle mileage and payment of out-of-pocket expenses. In addition, Plaintiffs did not provide evidence that there would necessarily be a Dealership Class member associated with each Class Vehicle distributed to California for sale, which would be required per the class definition.

Second, the Warranty Class failed on typicality grounds because both Plaintiffs failed to comply with the terms of the express warranty. One Plaintiff made significant modifications to his vehicle and drove the vehicle in excess of the revolutions-per-minute limit. The second Plaintiff participated in several motorsports events with his vehicle. Thus, both Plaintiffs’ claims would be subject to unique defenses at trial. In addition, their warranty claims were not sufficiently similar to each other.

Third, the Dealership Class also failed on ascertainability grounds because Plaintiffs had not proposed any method of ascertaining whether a putative class member incurred out-of-pocket costs in repairing their rod bearings. However, the court found the Warranty Class was ascertainable, because members could be identified based on a combination of (1) a list of Class Vehicles provided by Defendant and (2) mileage and residency information ascertained either by California Department of Motor Vehicles records or from affidavits submitted by individual class members.

This decision highlights the importance of conducting a rigorous analysis of each factor of Rule 23.

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