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Mazda Clutch Falls Short

A federal judge in California indicated last Friday that she will more than likely refuse Mazda’s bid to toss a putative class action brought by Mazda 3 buyers alleging that their cars have defective clutches. The judge, Maxine M. Chesney stated that while some claims need to be “beefed up” a bit, she’s not inclined to nix them all.

During a hearing, Chesney told the attorneys of the class that some of their claims against Mazda, including their implied and secret warranty claims, California unfair practice claims and claims brought under the Song-Waverly Act, are deficient. With this, however, the Judge also said she would likely give the buyers the opportunity to amend their complaint given the magnitude of the case. “I’m happy to give you a chance to beef it up,” she said.

Lead plaintiff, Iris Gonzales, and seven others (half of whom purchased their vehicles in other states), launched the lawsuit last April, claiming the company had known for nearly a decade that its Mazda 3 clutch release assembly is defective and prone to premature failure. However, Mazda has refused to disclose the defect to prospective customers and won’t fix it for free, even if the parts are covered by warranty.

Law 360 reports that on Friday, Mazda attorney Michael L. Mallow urged Judge Chesney to dismiss the suit, saying the claims are either time-barred, lacked privity, are barred by the economic loss doctrine or are deficiently pled. Mallow also said the court should toss claims filed by plaintiffs outside the state in light of the Ninth Circuit’s 2012 decision in Mazza v. American Honda Motor Co.

In this case, the Ninth Circuit found that there were salient differences in states’ consumer protection statutes and decertified a nationwide class of drivers who sued Honda under California’s false advertising law, but the buyer’s attorney, Daniel Herrera, disagreed, stating that the Mazza ruling can’t easily be applied to this case. The state statutes governing claims alleged in this case may not be materially different than California’s statutes, and therefore the out-of-state claims could have teeth, Herrera said. Herrera asked Judge Chesney if the buyers could brief the court on the differences between the statutes, before dismissing those plaintiffs.

Herrera went on to state that he is “quite confident” there’s a defect in these vehicles and that the repairs typically exceeded $1,000 per vehicle and the class claims will exceed the $5 million threshold for cases to be heard in district court.

Judge Chesney said she would re-read the Mazza case and decide if the facts in the case apply before ruling on Mazda’s motion to dismiss, but she noted that she would still likely give the buyers an opportunity to amend their complaint.

For your reference, the suit is listed under Gonzalez et al. v. Mazda Motor Corp. et al., case number 3:16-cv-02087, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. For a full copy of the complaint click here!

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