A judge in the U.S District Court for the Northern District of Georgia gave a green light to a lawsuit against Mercedes-Benz alleging that panoramic sunroofs in some models are prone to randomly shatter under normal conditions.
The lawsuit began in February 2023, alleging the automaker profited from the sale and lease of potentially unsafe vehicles while hiding that the panoramic sunroofs can shatter while the car is being driven.
Plaintiff Natalie Bolling claimed that Mercedes used tempered glass on the sunroofs rather than the laminated glass used by other manufacturers like Volvo, Honda and Tesla.
Tempered glass is designed to break into small pieces and can “explode suddenly,” says Bolling’s original suit. An amended complaint from July 2023 became the focus of the opinion on the motion to dismiss from Mercedes-Benz.
According to the opinion dated Jan. 30 2024, , U.S. District Judge Thomas Thrash Jr. denied a Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act (MMWA) claim from the case. The act protects consumers by making the filing of breach of warranty claims. The act allows consumers to recover attorneys’ fees, court costs, and other expenses when they prevail.
In the 62-page opinion, Judge Thomas says the four plaintiffs failed to meet the threshold for jurisdiction because the number of plaintiffs is less than 100 required by the MMWA.
However, he noted that the number of plaintiffs needed to move the case forward was superseded by the Class Action Fairness Act (CAFA) and that “many district courts” in the same circuit have found the law doesn’t “convey a clear Congressional intent to override the plain text” of the MMWA.
Finally, “the MMWA plaintiffs do not explain how they meet the requirements for the exercise of either type of jurisdiction or how meeting those requirements gets around the express limitation under the MMWA that ‘[no] claim shall be cognizable … if the action is brought as a class action, and the number of named plaintiffs is less than one hundred,'” the opinion says.
However, every other claim aside from that one was kept on the docket in some form, although certain plaintiffs were dropped.
Regarding the “traceability” element of standing, Mercedes-Benz contended standing was lacking because the plaintiffs did not prove their sunroofs shattered because of the defect they claimed.
Judge Thrash wrote, “If the plaintiffs are ultimately unable to show that the [sunroofs] shatter because of a defect rather than outside influences, they will be unable to prove causation, and their claims will fail. Yet, without the benefit of discovery, it is too early to know whether the plaintiffs will be able to do so.”
The judge relied on a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration investigation that found no “safety-related defect trend” and its report stating the end of the inquiry did not “constitute a finding by NHTSA that a safety defect does not exist,” according to the opinion.
The court said it wouldn’t make the plaintiffs prove that the sunroofs were defective before the case headed to discovery.
Mercedes-Benz argued that there was no severe risk of “continuing irreparable injury” if the relief sought was not approved.
“The fact that the replacement [sunroofs] have not broken yet is not indicative of a lack of future risk of harm considering that all but one of the named plaintiffs’ [sunroofs] broke within the last year,” according to the judge’s opinion.