Preemptive Strike Terminates Nationwide Product Defect Class In Louisiana

A Louisiana District Court struck plaintiff’s class allegations in a putative nationwide class of Mercedes vehicle owners finding plaintiff failed to meet his burden of proving predominance, superiority and manageability.

Plaintiff alleged that that Mercedes concealed defects in the GL model suspension system that caused the vehicles to lean and be undriveable.  Plaintiff’s complaint asserted various common law product liability, warranty and fraud theories as well as violations of Louisiana’s Unfair Trade Practice Act.  Rather than wait for plaintiff to file his motion for class certification, Mercedes moved to strike plaintiff’s class allegations arguing that the application of other state’s laws presented insurmountable hurdles under Rule 23(b)(3).

The court recognized that Mercedes’ motion was a “preemptive strike” that limited the time in which plaintiff had to gather evidence to meet his burden.  Instead of seeking an extension, however, plaintiff responded in opposition and also filed his own certification motion.  The Court observed that plaintiff failed to provide any kind of survey of the state laws that might apply to the proposed nationwide class.  Without such information, the court could not conduct the necessary rigorous inquiry of how variations in different state’s laws might affect its Rule 23 predominance and superiority criteria analysis.

Furthermore, the court debunked Plaintiff’s “meritless assertion” that he could not foresee manageability problems with the proposed nationwide class.  The court raised numerous anticipated manageability issues regarding the application of multiple states’ laws, including difficulties analyzing whether individual class members’ claims would be prescribed or otherwise time-barred as well as the fact-specific inquiry required to establish reliance as a necessary element of class members’ fraud claims.  The court concluded these serious manageability problems far outweighed any benefit a class action would create.

Finally, the Court noted that plaintiff’s pending motion to certify was as “conclusory and unhelpful” as its opposition to Mercedes’ motion to strike and held that Plaintiff would not be able to satisfy his Rule 23 burden even upon consideration of that motion.

Becnel v. Mercedes-Benz USA, LLC, Case No. 2:14-cv-00003-CJB-MBN (E.D. La. June 3, 2014)

 

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Carlton Fields Jorden Burt on:

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