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Wolin v. Jaguar Land Rover North America

August 17, 2010

BRIAN J. WOLIN, ON BEHALF OF HIMSELF AND ALL OTHERS SIMILARLY SITUATED, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
JAGUAR LAND ROVER NORTH AMERICA, LLC, DEFENDANT-APPELLEE.
KENNETH GABLE, ON BEHALF OF HIMSELF AND ALL OTHERS SIMILARLY SITUATED, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
JAGUAR LAND ROVER NORTH AMERICA, LLC, DEFENDANT-APPELLEE.



Appeal from the United States District Court for the Central District of California Andrew J. Guilford, District Judge, Presiding D.C. Nos. 8:07-cv-00627-AGRNB & 8:07-cv-00376-AG-RNB.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: D.W. Nelson, Senior Circuit Judge

FOR PUBLICATION

Argued and Submitted June 11, 2010 -- Pasadena, California.

Before: Dorothy W. Nelson and Ronald M. Gould, Circuit Judges, and James S. Gwin, District Judge.*fn1

OPINION

Kenneth Gable and Brian Wolin appeal the district court's denial of their respective motions for class certification. Gable and Wolin each brought a class action lawsuit against Jaguar Land Rover North America, LLC ("Land Rover") alleging that Land Rover's LR3 vehicles suffer from an alignment geometry defect that causes tires to wear prematurely. We must decide whether the district court erred as a matter of law when it declined to certify a class because Gable and Wolin were unable to prove that a majority of potential class members suffered from the consequences of the alleged alignment defect. We have jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1292, and we reverse.

I. Background

Kenneth Gable and Brian Wolin each bought a 2005 Land Rover LR3. Gable purchased his vehicle in 2004 in Michigan.

Wolin made his purchase in 2006 in Florida. Both vehicles came factory equipped with Goodyear Wrangler tires.

Gable and Wolin both allege that their vehicles are defective. The defect, characterized by the plaintiffs as a geometry defect in the vehicles' alignment, allegedly caused uneven and premature tire wear and gave their vehicles a rough ride. According to Gable and Wolin, LR3 drivers must replace their tires prematurely, in many cases after just 15,000 miles.

The LR3 came with a four-year, 50,000 mile factory warranty (the "Limited Warranty"). This warranty covered "re-pairs required to correct defects in factory-supplied materials or factory workmanship . . . with the exception of tires." Land Rover also provided a separate warranty (the "Tire Warranty") covering tire replacement of tires and/or vehicle realignment in the event the tires exhibit "[e]xcessive wear that is inconsistent with normal use" and "caused by a manufacturing defect elsewhere on the vehicle."

On October 3, 2006, Land Rover issued a Technical Service Bulletin indicating that the tires on certain vehicles may wear prematurely and unevenly due to the vehicles' steering alignment geometry. Land Rover then began to cover the costs of temporarily fixing the defect on a pro rata basis. Land Rover did not offer owners full reimbursement as provided in the warranty. Gable complained to his Land Rover dealer, and the Land Rover service manager covered part of Gable's bill for the replacement of his tires. Wolin complained multiple times and, ultimately, Land Rover's dealer covered part of Wolin's bill for the replacement of his tires.

Gable filed a class action complaint on behalf of all those who purchased or leased 2005 and 2006 Land Rover LR3s in Michigan. Wolin filed a class action complaint on behalf of all those who purchased or leased a 2004, 2005, or 2006 Land Rover LR3 in Florida. The lawsuits were filed pursuant to the Class Action Fairness Act, 28 U.S.C. § 1332(d). According to the appellants, Land Rover knew of the defect and continued to sell the vehicles without disclosing the existence of the defect. Appellants also allege that Land Rover breached its warranties by failing to cover the entire cost of repairing the defect and replacing the tires. Gable asserts claims under the Michigan Consumer Protection Act (MCPA), Mich. Comp. Laws § 445.901, et seq., as well as for breach of express and implied warranties, and for unjust enrichment. Wolin asserts claims under the Florida Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act (FDUTPA), Fla. Stat. § 501.201, et seq., and for breach of express warranties and unjust enrichment.

On September 29, 2008, the district court denied each of the appellants' respective motions for class certification. The court concluded that neither could meet his burden of showing that common issues predominate. The court indicated that the number of people in the class who have experienced the alignment defect is an important factor in the Rule 23 analysis, and concluded that neither Gable nor Wolin produced sufficient evidence of the rate of the defect. After first stating that the plaintiffs in Samuel-Bassett v. Kia Motors America, Inc. showed that up to 85% of the vehicles were defective, the court held that both Gable and Wolin failed to meet their respective burdens because neither could estimate the percent of prospective class members whose vehicles manifested the defect, let alone show credibly that ...


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