— An Infiniti FX bubbling dashboard lawsuit verdict for $2.5 million has been overturned by the Missouri Supreme Court.
According to the dashboard class-action lawsuit, Nissan, parent company of Infiniti, started building the Infiniti FX35 and FX45 in 2003, but in 2005 complaints started rolling in about dashboards bubbling and deforming from heat and humidity.
"More than 2 yrs ago the dash board on my 2008 Infinity FX35 in a very short time frame started bubble up. I have since gone to the dealer for another recall and at that time explained and showed the agent the horrific dashboard. He just said that it cost some $2600.00 for the repair because my model was not under the recall..." - 2008 Infinity FX35 owner / Marietta, Georgia
Infiniti changed dashboard suppliers, but the complaints continued, so the automaker changed suppliers again and the number of defective dashboards dropped to 0.2 percent.
The FX35 and FX45 came with a warranty that included the dashboards, and the automaker also extended the length of the warranty with respect to the dashboards and replaced more than 45,000 dashboards for free.
The Missouri class-action was filed over the original dashboards used in Infiniti FX35 and FX45 vehicles based on the theory Nissan falsely advertised the vehicles in promotional materials. The lawsuit argued the false advertising consisted of phrases such as:
- The FX is a “premium” vehicle and a “leader in style.”
- The FX provides “features that are both elegant and intelligent.”
- The FX is a “premium” vehicle with a “premium automotive experience.”
The plaintiffs contended at trial that each statement was a misrepresentation and conveyed a “false impression” because the FX vehicles were sold with defective dashboards susceptible to bubbling.
In a show of how absurd some trial arguments can be, yet juries buy the arguments, many members of the lawsuit claimed they deserved payments even though their Infiniti dashboards never were affected by bubbling or other problems.
In addition, many owners had their dashboards replaced for free by Nissan prior to the lawsuit, but those owners said the "stigma" caused them to demand that Nissan pay damages.
The jury agreed with the plaintiff's claims and awarded 326 Missouri Infiniti FX35 and FX45 owners and lessees $2,000 each, totaling $652,000 in damages to those customers. But the attorneys representing the owners were awarded $1.9 million.
However, out of the 326 members of the class-action lawsuit, 119 already had received free dashboard replacements. Additionally, the judge found no evidence that any of the remaining members of the lawsuit even experienced any bubbling of their dashboards.
Nissan appealed to the Missouri Supreme Court which overturned the $2.5 million verdict against the automaker.
According to the ruling from the Missouri Supreme Court, the plaintiffs failed to offer sufficient evidence for the jury to find that Nissan made misrepresentations under the Missouri Merchandising Practices Act. The Supreme Court found no evidence that Nissan originally used cheap dashboards that would bubble.
"Even assuming Nissan’s representations the FX vehicles were 'premium' and 'luxury' and the like are factual statements, those statements could not have been false or misleading representations unless there is proof the FX vehicles were constructed with low-end, 'economy,' or 'standard' accoutrements." - Missouri Supreme Court
As for saying the FX SUVs were premium vehicles, the Court found just because something is advertised as "premium" doesn't mean the vehicle is perfect.
"There was no evidence from which the jury could find the members of the class reasonably understood Nissan’s representation that the FX vehicles were “luxury” and “premium” to mean that every part in those vehicles was entirely free of defect. To the contrary, Nissan’s inclusion of a warranty covering defects in the dashboard (along with numerous other parts) makes such an inference unreasonable."
The Nissan FX35 and FX45 bubbling dashboard lawsuit is Robert Hurst v. Nissan North America, Inc.