The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has concluded that common issues of law predominate in two putative class actions alleging a steering alignment defect in Land Rover LR3 vehicles, which defect purportedly manifested in uneven and premature tire wear.

Wolin v. Jaguar Land Rover N. Am., LLC, Nos. 09-55104 & 09-55105 (9th Cir., decided August 17, 2010). The named plaintiffs sought to certify Michigan and Florida classes in their respective lawsuits, and the district court denied the motions because the plaintiffs “could not estimate the percent of prospective class members whose vehicles manifested the defect, let alone show credibly that even a majority of class members’ vehicles experienced premature tire wear.”  

According to the appeals court, “proof of the manifestation of a defect is not a prerequisite to class certification.” The court rejected “Land Rover’s suggestion that automobile defect cases can categorically never be certified as a class.” While the court acknowledged that individual factors may affect premature tire wear, “they do not affect whether the vehicles were sold with an alignment defect.” Among other matters, the court noted that the claims of all prospective class members “involve the same alleged defect, covered by the same warranty, and found in vehicles of the same make and model.” Common issues include whether the alignment geometry is defective, whether the manufacturer was aware of and concealed the defect, whether the company violated state consumer protection laws, and whether the company was obligated to pay for or repair the alleged defect under the terms of its warranties.  

The court noted that on remand, the trial court would have to consider whether the Tire Warranty claim was amenable to class treatment and whether the proposed bifurcated trial plan was appropriate. The court rejected the defendant’s alternative claims that class certification was unwarranted for failing to satisfy the typicality and superiority requirements of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23.