— A Volkswagen exploding sunroof class-action lawsuit is hanging on after the automaker filed a motion to dismiss the complaint.
Plaintiff Rosaura Deras filed the lawsuit on behalf of consumers who purchased or leased in California any of the following vehicles equipped with factory-installed sunroofs:
- 2005-2017 Volkswagen Jetta
- 2015-2017 Volkswagen Golf
- 2006-2015 Volkswagen GTI
- 2009-2010 Volkswagen CC
- 2007-2016 Volkswagen Eos
- 2006-2009 Volkswagen Rabbit
- 2012-2017 Volkswagen Passat
- 2004-2006 Volkswagen Touareg
- 2011-2017 Volkswagen Touareg
- 2008 Volkswagen R32
- 2009-2017 Volkswagen Tiguan
According to Deras, she leased a 2013 Volkswagen Jetta in June 2013 and purchased the vehicle on June 3, 2016, at the end of her lease term.
In 2017 while driving on the freeway, she claims a loud “BOOM” like a gunshot went off in the car, followed by a hail of glass falling on her head and the interior of the Volkswagen. She says she saw a large hole in the center of her sunroof with the edges of the glass pointing upward, indicating the glass wasn't broken from outside the vehicle.
The plaintiff says VW has concealed defects in the sunroofs because since December 14, 2009, 57 “owners and lessees of Class Vehicles have reported an incident of their sunroof shattering” to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
According to the plaintiff, VW further knew of the defect through its internal tracking systems and because the automaker issued a recall for its 2013-2015 Beetle.
The recall was issued “relating to the shattering of sunroofs,” but “it has done nothing regarding the far more predominant problem relating to all regular and panoramic sunroof shattering that affects potentially hundreds of thousands or more VW vehicles.”
Volkswagen moved to dismiss the exploding sunroof class-action lawsuit, starting with implied warranty claims on the grounds they are barred by the 4-year statute of limitations.
The plaintiff doesn't dispute that she did not file the lawsuit within four years of the date on which she leased the vehicle. However, she argues that her claim is timely because her June 2016 purchase re-started the statute of limitations clock. The judge agreed.
Deras also claims she can bring an implied warranty claim because Volkswagen sold her the vehicle, but VW argues the lawsuit never mentions where she actually purchased the vehicle. However, the judge ruled the assumption is the vehicle was purchased from the same dealership that leased it.
However, according to the judge, VW won the argument about a claim of unjust enrichment by arguing the new vehicle warranty precludes the claim.
Concerning the claim that Volkswagen knew about the sunroof problems because of internal monitoring and complaints made to NHTSA, VW says the allegations are not enough to state a claim in court, and the judge agreed.
Deras alleges NHTSA received 57 complaints of shattering sunroofs between December 14, 2009, and April 11, 2017, and that safety regulators monitored the complaints. Of those complaints, 45 were made before Deras purchased her vehicle on June 3, 2016.
But according to the judge, “the Ninth Circuit has held that consumer complaints suffice to establish knowledge only where there were an unusual number of complaints, such that the manufacturer would be on notice of a specific problem.”
The judge also found the plaintiff contends there are “potentially hundreds of thousands or more of VW vehicles with defective sunroofs, so 57 complaints out of hundreds of thousands of vehicles aren't an unusual number of complaints."
"These complaints therefore do not show VW’s knowledge of the alleged defect." - Judge Jon S. Tigar
As for the allegation that Volkswagen knew about the alleged shattering sunroofs because of a previous recall related to sunroofs, the judge ruled Deras has cited no authority, and the judge is aware of none, holding that prior recalls of similar products is enough to establish knowledge of a defect.
Therefore, the judge dismissed claims of violations of California’s unfair competition law, California Consumer Legal Remedies Act and fraud by omission, but with leave to amend the claims.
Overall, the judge dismissed all the claims against Volkswagen except claims related to implied warranties.
The Volkswagen exploding sunroof class-action lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California - Rosaura Deras, et. al., v. Volkswagen Group of America, Inc.
CarComplaints.com has complaints about the models named in the lawsuit: