Mercedes, Toyota See Panoramic Sunroof Cases Play Out Differently

The sagas of the panoramic sunroof, and allegations that a number of vehicle manufacturers use “defective” products that result in shattered glass, continue through U.S. courts. While one manufacturer appears to be gearing up to contest the allegations in Georgia, another has already seen its case dismissed by a Texas court.

Filed by the plaintiff on February 14 in Georgia against Mercedes (MBUSA), the complaint opens with a brief examination of panoramic sunroofs and their “engineering challenges.” According to the complaint, panoramic sunroofs add mass at the top of the vehicle, raise a vehicle’s center of gravity, and must maintain structural integrity through bumps, jolts and more. Vehicles included in the litigation are those with panoramic sunroofs dating back to 2011 to the present.

“Mercedes has failed to satisfactorily meet the engineering challenges presented by panoramic sunroofs,” the plaintiff’s complaint states. “Mercedes vehicles with panoramic sunroofs suffer from a design, manufacturing and/or materials defect whereby their panoramic sunroofs will spontaneously shatter under normal driving conditions creating a safety hazard for the vehicle occupants and surrounding traffic.”

According to the complaint, Mercedes would not cover the repairs, claiming that the sunroof shattered as a result of “outside influence.”

“Mercedes has known about the propensity of its panoramic sunroofs to spontaneously shatter for more than a decade,” the plaintiff alleges. “As early as 2006, Mercedes received reports from consumers, NHSTA, and its own dealerships that its panoramic sunroofs were not withstanding the stresses created by ordinary driving conditions.”

Months have gone by without Mercedes filing a response. However, on May 12, just three days before Mercedes’ deadline to file a response, the parties in the case filed a joint motion with the court. They asked not only for an extension of time with respect to Mercedes’ answer to the complaint but also with regard to future filings.

The parties tell the court that the plaintiff’s complaint is 43 pages long and includes “202 separately numbered paragraphs,” along with six causes of action relating to federal and state law. Given the number and complexity of claims, and taking into account that Mercedes just recently retained counsel, the vehicle manufacturer asked the court for additional time to prepare its response.

Similarly, should that response come in the form of a motion, such as a motion to dismiss, the plaintiff would also receive additional time to file their response.

Earlier this year, Toyota was pulled into a lawsuit based on similar accusations from two California plaintiffs who filed a lawsuit in Texas with respect to Toyota’s 2021 RAV4. Toyota Motor North America is headquartered in Plano, Texas.

According to the plaintiffs, “on information and belief,” Toyota makes its panoramic sunroofs out of tempered glass. While the final product is stronger than non-tempered glass, plaintiffs say that a compromised outer layer still results in the entire glass piece shattering “explosively.” The plaintiffs alleged the “deficiency” resulted from “deficient materials,” a “deficient” manufacturing process or a “deficiency” in the structure of the class vehicles.

That complaint was filed at the end of March 2023. Just a few days later, at the beginning of April, the court instructed the plaintiffs to file an amended complaint, one that would “allege facts sufficient to invoke federal jurisdiction.” They were given until mid-April to do so.

On May 1, 2023, just days after the plaintiffs submitted a notice of voluntary dismissal, the court dismissed the civil case without prejudice. That means the case could return in the future.

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