Mediation Fails in ‘Defective’ Sunroof Lawsuit

Nissan’s challenge to class action certification with respect to a lawsuit alleging that a number of its vehicles contain a “defect” on their panoramic sunroofs could be headed for the next step in the appeals process. While the parties asked a California judge to stay proceedings pending the resolution of mediation in November 2022, as of March 2023, court documents show that those efforts were unsuccessful.

Nissan is challenging a recent California district court ruling that resulted in class action certification for drivers in multiple states. On appeal, the vehicle manufacturer has raised the question of whether plaintiffs presented “sufficient admissible evidence” identifying a common defect with respect to allegations of defective panoramic sunroofs.

The matter began with a lawsuit in 2017. The plaintiffs allege in documentation filed with the court that the panoramic sunroofs on a number of Nissan vehicles have a “defect.” The complaint alleges that the design of the sunroofs make them vulnerable to fracturing or shattering under normal driving conditions. Vehicles named in the lawsuit include the Maxima, Rogue, Pathfinder, Murano, and Infiniti JX and QX60.

The plaintiffs also argue that Nissan North America Inc. failed to disclose the alleged issue to consumers as required by consumer protection laws. Nissan argues that its panoramic sunroofs comply with regulatory standards set by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

Claims were certified from drivers in California, New York, Colorado and Florida in July by a California judge. In October, the matter was sent to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals after the California judge granted Nissan’s petition for permission to appeal the July ruling. In November, the Ninth Circuit approved the parties’ request to put a hold on future proceedings until mediation efforts had concluded.

The case had been at mediation for all of 2023, as well as the latter few months of 2022. On March 22, 2023, the mediator filed documentation with the court, noting that the case had been “released” from the mediation program. Appellant Nissan also asked the court for additional time to submit its opening brief, and was awarded another month to file the associated documentation. The appellees also received an additional month to file an answering brief, with those filings due in mid-May and mid-June, respectively.

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