— A Nissan Sentra CVT class-action lawsuit has survived a dismissal bid by Nissan, although the automaker did succeed in getting some claims tossed out.
The class-action lawsuit alleges 2013-2017 Nissan Sentras have continuously variable transmissions (CVTs) that are “defective in design, materials, and/or workmanship.”
According to the plaintiffs, the cars experience all kinds of transmission problems that make driving dangerous.
Allegations include “sudden, unexpected shaking and violent jerking (commonly referred to as ‘juddering’ or ‘shuddering’) when drivers attempt to accelerate." Drivers also claim the cars hesitate when trying to accelerate, increasing the risk of injuries and deaths.
The plaintiffs further allege the transmissions eventually fail, something Nissan has known about for years.
Within a year of selling the first allegedly defective vehicle, Nissan sent a technical service bulletin to dealers about engine control and transmission control modules. However, the lawsuit alleges customers kept complaining about the CVTs after dealers made repairs.
Each plaintiff described their own problems with the transmissions, with one customer claiming “almost immediately after her purchase,” the “vehicle began to judder and would fail to properly accelerate.”
Another plaintiff “noticed symptoms of the defect, including frequent juddering, a whining noise, and delayed acceleration.”
Another Sentra owner “noticed transmission failures, including that the vehicle stalled at stoplights, vibrated and jerked under acceleration, had severe lag, would not go more than 20 mph without shaking and exhibited severe juddering at higher speeds.”
Yet another plaintiff claims several years after buying the Sentra, “the RPMs were fluttering on the highway,” and “[t]he vehicle shook when at a stop and hesitated when accelerating from a stop.” In addition, one of the plaintiffs say the transmission completely failed.
Nissan filed a motion to dismiss the entire lawsuit by alleging the allegations of transmission problems don't hold up according to the law. While the plaintiffs claim the CVTs are covered by the express warranty, Nissan says the plaintiffs don't name a specific transmission defect.
The automaker also argues if any defect is identified, it's a design defect that isn't covered by the warranty. But the judge ruled the lawsuit says the CVTs “are defective in design, materials, and/or workmanship.”
According to the judge, the plaintiffs have identified a number of symptoms that may be attributable to material or workmanship defects. But the fact the lawsuit alleges a transmission defect is present in all models does not necessarily mean that the defect must be in the design.
"Here, Plaintiffs have alleged sufficient facts to support a plausible claim that the transmissions “differ from the product the manufacturer intended to sell” in ways that could be attributable to a materials or workmanship defect." - Judge Haywood S. Gilliam, Jr.
Concerning implied warranty claims, Nissan argues four plaintiffs cannot state a claim for breach of the implied warranty of merchantability because their cars were “minimally fit for the ordinary purpose of providing basic transportation, and . . . satisfy a minimum level of quality, even if they fail to perform exactly as the buyer expected.”
However, the judge ruled all the plaintiffs experienced transmission problems that implicate both quality and safety and the unreliable acceleration alone poses a risk for any driver on the road.
"These allegations are more than sufficient to survive at the pleading stage."
The judge went on to deny Nissan's motion to dismiss a breach of warranty claim for one plaintiff, but granted the motion concerning two other plaintiffs.
The judge also denied Nissan's motion to dismiss claims about the Magnuson-Moss Act.
Due to claims from multiple plaintiffs in multiple states, the judge had numerous rulings to issue. In the end, the judge granted Nissan's motion to dismiss all plaintiffs' claims for equitable relief and implied warranty claims for two plaintiffs, all without leave to amend.
The judge also dismissed plaintiffs' claims for unjust enrichment, but with leave to amend.
Nissan's motion to dismiss is denied as to all remaining claims.
The Nissan Sentra CVT class-action lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California - Falk, et al., v. Nissan North America, Inc.