On November 28, 2012, the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey dismissed a putative class action against BMW of North America (“BMW”) and Bridgestone Firestone North American Tire, LLC, Bridgestone Americas Tire Operations LLC, and Bridgestone Americas Inc. (collectively “Bridgestone”) in which the plaintiff alleged that the Potenza Run Flat Tires installed on certain BMW automobiles were defective. According to plaintiff’s allegations, the tires installed on his BMW developed sidewall bubbles that “made for a ‘distractingly loud,’ ‘[un]controlled,’ and ‘dangerous’ ride.” However, as the court noted, plaintiff did not allege any damage to his car or injury to himself.
Plaintiff asserted six causes of action: (1) breach of express warranty under the Magnuson–Moss Warranty Act (“MMWA”); (2) breach of implied warranty under the MMWA; (3) breach of express warranty under New Jersey's Uniform Commercial Code; (4) breach of implied warranty of merchantability under New Jersey's Uniform Commercial Code; (5) breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing under New Jersey common law; and (6) violation of the New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act (“NJCFA”). Finding that plaintiff’s claims were either unfounded, implausible, or merely speculative, the court dismissed each count.
Regarding plaintiff’s express warranty claim, the court found that the only express warranty covering the Run Flat tires was provided by Bridgestone and was limited to free replacements “during the first twenty-five percent of tread wear or within twelve months from the date of purchase ... whichever occurs first.” Because BMW expressly excluded tires from its own warranty coverage, plaintiff’s express warranty claims against BMW were dismissed with prejudice. Likewise, because plaintiff did not allege that he ever brought the allegedly defective tires to an authorized Bridgestone Firestone retailer for service (as required under the Bridgestone warranty), and thus did not allege that Bridgestone failed to satisfy its express warranty obligations, the court found that plaintiff failed to state a claim for breach of express warranty against Bridgestone. Moreover, since plaintiff strategically withdrew the express warranty claim against Bridgestone to avoid arbitration, the court dismissed the claim with prejudice.
Concerning plaintiff’s breach of implied warranty of merchantability claim, the court first held that Bridgestone’s attempt to disclaim the implied warranty was ineffective under the MMWA, which provides that “‘[n]o supplier may disclaim or modify ... any implied warranty to a consumer with respect to such consumer product if (1) such supplier makes any written warranty to the consumer with respect to such consumer product....’” Although Bridgestone failed to successfully disclaim the implied warranty by way of its written limited warranty on the Run Flat tires, the court found that neither Bridgestone nor BMW breached the implied warranty of merchantability based upon plaintiff’s allegations. While the court recognized that the allegedly defective tires were “far from perfect,” it also recognized that the implied warranty did not guarantee perfection. Instead, as the court noted, “‘[i]n the context of a car, [the implied warranty of merchantability] is satisfied when the vehicle provides safe and reliable transportation.’” The court found plaintiff’s implied warranty claims implausible because plaintiff: (1) never attempted to contact the tire manufacturer; (2) continued to drive on the allegedly defective tires for more than a year; and (3) replaced the allegedly defective tires with the same exact model tire. Noting that the parties agreed that “[s]tate substantive law determines the liability for MMWA claims based on breaches of express and implied warranties,” the court similarly dismissed plaintiff’s MMWA claims.
Plaintiff’s NJCFA allegations were based on (1) unnamed BMW dealership employees who allegedly informed him that bubbling on the tires was a normal occurrence; (2) a single website posting that described the bubbling; and (3) plaintiff’s assertion that defendants’ knowledge of the defects was supported by the testing that they either performed or should have performed on the tires. The court noted that plaintiff did not allege that the unnamed dealership employees ever notified Bridgestone or BMW of their concerns, or that either defendant was ever aware of the website posting. Further, the court held that plaintiff’s assertions regarding knowledge of the alleged defects based upon testing was “little more than ungrounded speculation.” Consequently, the court held that plaintiff’s allegations failed to suggest that discovery would produce evidence that either Bridgestone or BMW knew that the Run Flat tires would become defective and unsafe within the first six months of use or sooner. The court likewise held that plaintiff failed to suggest that discovery would reveal evidence of intent to deceive.
The court also dealt summarily with plaintiff’s breach of implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing claim against BMW, finding that it had “zero traction” because there was no contract between the two parties. As a result, the court dismissed the claim without prejudice.
With the exception of the express warranty claims, the court granted plaintiff leave to file an amended complaint with thirty days consistent with its rulings. See Greene v. BMW of North America et al., Civil No. 2:11-cv-04220 (WJM) (November 28, 2012).