BMW Alleged Battery Defect Putative Class Action Holds a Charge

In Morano v. BMW of N. America, LLC, the Court refused to dismiss warranty and tort claims in a putative class action alleging a known defect in a BMW vehicle’s battery. The plaintiff alleged that the battery in his vehicle would not hold a charge and that his local dealer would not replace it because it was excluded from the BMW’s warranty and maintenance program. The plaintiff alleged that Defendant failed to disclose the battery coverage exclusion, and he sought to represent a Florida class of purchasers or leasees.

The Court rejected BMWNA’s “central legal argument,” aside from pleading deficiencies, that it was not in privity with the plaintiff because BMWNA sold and leased vehicles to independent dealers. Calling BMW’s position “nothing if not audacious,” the Court explained that, followed to its logical conclusion, “no consumer is in privity with BMWNA” — the warrantor of the vehicle — and the warranty would therefore be “enforceable by nobody.” The Court predicted that the Florida Supreme Court would not find the warranty to be unenforceable for lack of privity. In addition, BMWNA’s motion to strike class allegations was denied because of the Court’s view that this was “not that rare case” in which the class allegations were “so facially deficient that a court can dismiss them on a Rule 12(b)(6) motion,” finding instead that the Court would need to determine whether individual driving habits or causation issues have a sufficient basis in fact.

Litigators should keep a lookout to see whether this Court’s rejection of the warranty privity arguments, although based upon Florida law, will be followed by other federal courts across the nation that are faced with similar arguments in breach of warranty or breach of contract actions — particularly in other alleged vehicle defect putative class actions.

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