The Southern District of California decertified a nationwide consumer product class due to material differences between the state laws applicable to the claims. The plaintiff in Czuchaj v. Conair Corp. alleged a defect in certain Conair brand hairdryers. The district court certified a nationwide class under Rule 23(b)(2) and (b)(3) for implied warranty claims under the common law and the Magnuson Moss Warranty Act. The class was defined as:
All persons who purchased either a model 259 or 279 Infiniti Pro 1875 Watt hair dryer, between August 15, 2009 and the present, sold by Defendant Conair Corporation directly or through numerous retailers for primarily personal, family, or household purposes, and not for resale.
The court also certified two state subclasses under Rule 23(b)(3): a California subclass for claims under California’s Consumer Legal Remedies Act, Competition Law, and Song-Beverly Warranty Act; and a New York subclass for a claim under New York General Business Law § 349.
Conair argued the class had to be decertified because California law could not be applied to the entire class, and due to material differences in state laws, common questions did not predominate. Applying California’s three-step “governmental interest approach,” the district court determined first that the laws of the 50 states vary greatly; second, that each state had a valid and important interest in applying its own law; and, third, that it was appropriate to apply each state’s law to consumers who purchased hairdryers in that state.
Conair noted several differences in the states’ laws, including the fact that some states required privity of contract between consumer and manufacturer for an implied warranty claim, while others did not, which was material because Conair did not sell hairdryers direct to consumers. In addition, the states’ statutes of limitation differed and some states required a manifestation of a defect before a consumer could recover for breach of implied warranty, while others did not.
The district court noted that although material differences in state laws do not automatically overcome the predominance and superiority requirements in Rule 23(b)(3), they did in Czuchaj because application of each state’s law raised more individualized questions, including where and when consumers purchased the hairdryers, whether the hairdryers malfunctioned, and if so whether the malfunction caused harm. As a result, the district court concluded the requirements of Rule 23(b)(3) were not satisfied, and decertified the class.