California Court of Appeal Clarifies Breach of Warranty Law in Class Actions and Vacates Order Certifying Class of Consumers in American Honda Motor Company, Inc. v. Superior Court

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In American Honda Motor Company, Inc. v. Superior Court of Los Angeles County, 199 Cal. App. 4th 1367 (2011), the California Court of Appeal for the Second Appellate District clarified that, under California law, a party moving for class certification in a breach of warranty action must provide “substantial evidence of a defect that is substantially certain to result in malfunction during the useful life of the product.” American Honda Motor Co., Inc., 199 Cal. App. 4th at 1375.

Plaintiff Jin Hyeong Lee purchased a new Acura RSX with a six-speed manual transmission from Defendant American Honda Motor Company, Inc. (“Honda”). Id. at 1369. The standard manufacturer’s four-year warranty certified that Honda would replace any parts defective in material or workmanship under normal use. Id. The plaintiff experienced problems with the transmission within the warranty period when the car would pop out of third gear while it was running, but Honda technicians told him that the car was operating as designed. Id. Honda issued a service update to its dealers and a technical service bulletin (“TSB”) about this issue, advising Honda technicians on how to address the problem, such as replacing the third gear set. Id. at 1369-70.

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