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From Products Liability Law Daily, July 28, 2014

Hyundai buyers’ class action dismissed for lack of injury

By John W. Scanlan, J.D.

A putative class action suit brought by three people who each bought a Hyundai Tiburon asserting that Hyundai’s placement of the side airbag sensors made their cars defective was dismissed by the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California. The car buyers lacked standing to bring the suit because they failed to show how they had suffered any injury. However, the court granted them leave to replead their complaint (Anderson v. Hyundai Motor Co., Ltd., July 24, 2014, Gee, D.).

Background. Joanne Anderson, Terri Hill, and Jerome Jeffries each purchased a Hyundai Tiburon during 2004-2008, stating that they had purchased their cars because of the protection offered by side airbags. In 2014, the three car buyers filed a putative class action lawsuit against Hyundai, claiming violations of California’s Consumer Legal Remedies Act and its Unfair Competition Law, breach of the implied warranty of merchantability, and fraudulent concealment. They asserted that two studies by Hyundai that were conducted in 1999 and 2006 showed that the Tiburons were defective because the placement of the side impact sensors on the car’s crossmember, rather than on the B-pillar as in all other Hyundai models, resulted in the sensors receiving a weak signal during a collision, which significantly reduced the likelihood that the side airbags would timely deploy. According to the three buyers, this alleged defect injured them because their cars were worth less than they would be otherwise, they paid more for their cars than they would have if this problem had been disclosed prior to purchase, and their vehicles were unsafe. They asserted that this problem had resulted in “numerous” accidents in which the side airbags did not deploy and, consequently, in several lawsuits being filed against Hyundai. Hyundai moved to dismiss the suit.

Lack of Standing. The buyers’ suit was dismissed for lack of standing because they had not shown that they had been injured by the alleged defect; however, they were given leave to amend their complaint. The court pointed out that they had not claimed that they had suffered any actual injury. Furthermore, while they had asserted that there had been numerous accidents involving Tiburons in which the side air bags failed to deploy, they alleged no details of any injuries suffered by anyone involved in any of these accidents. Their complaint that the Tiburon sensors would cause the side air bags to deploy more slowly or not at all during some number of collisions, causing injury to some number of Tiburon owners, was conjectural and hypothetical because it depended on the occurrence of future collisions. The court noted that it had reviewed the two Hyundai studies and found that they did not appear to support the allegations of the buyers; because they had submitted no other evidence to the contrary, they failed to prove the existence of a defect.

While the buyers had alleged that their cars had been reduced in value a result of the claimed defect, they had not alleged that they were unwilling to drive them, that they traded or sold them at a loss, or any other facts supporting their allegation that they had suffered an economic loss. In addition, they had not shown that they had not received the benefit of their bargain because they did not allege any representations by Hyundai regarding the frequency or speed of airbag deployment. They submitted an airbag safety manual that they claimed had been distributed “at least with the 2008 Tiburon” which stated that the Tiburon was “equipped with side impact air-bags” and that they were “designed to inflate in moderate to severe side collisions.” However, the court noted that the buyers had not alleged either that the Tiburon lacked side impact airbags or that they were not designed to inflate in moderate to severe side collisions. It also said that they had not alleged that they had relied upon these statements in making their buying decisions or that they had read the manual before purchase; furthermore, the court noted that while the buyers stated that this manual came “at least with the 2008 Tiburon,” two of the three buyers had purchased the 2004 Tiburon.

The case number is SA CV 13-1842 DMG (RNBx).

Attorneys: Elaine T. Byszewski (Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro LLP) for Joanne Anderson. Ekwan E. Rhow (Bird Marella Boxer Wolpert Nessim Drooks Lincenberg & Rhow) for Hyundai Motor Co. Ltd., and Hyundai Motor America.

Companies: Hyundai Motor Co. Ltd.; Hyundai Motor America

MainStory: TopStory ClassActLitigationNews MotorVehiclesNews CaliforniaNews

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