— A Nissan clutch class action lawsuit has survived on appeal after the district court judge originally ruled against class action certification.
The class action currently includes the 2007-2009 Nissan 350Z and 370Z, 2007-2008 Infiniti G35, the 2008-2014 Infiniti G37 and the 2008-2014 Infiniti Q60.
The plaintiff purchased a new 2012 Nissan 370Z as a present for his son, Michael. In March 2014, Michael was driving the 370Z on the freeway when the clutch pedal lost pressure and didn't return to its position, so he slowed down until the clutch allowed him to shift into second gear.
The Nissan dealership replaced the concentric slave cylinder under warranty, but two years later when the problem allegedly reoccurred it cost the driver $721.75.
The plaintiff argues by Nissan reconfiguring the factory-installed clutch systems in 2007, the automaker failed to properly account for heat transfer which produced defective aluminum/plastic composite slave cylinders that cause the systems to overheat.
This allegedly causes the clutch fluid to boil and generates air that causes failure of the clutch pedals. Drivers complain the clutch pedals stick to the floors and prevent the shifting of gears.
According to the lawsuit, an internal Nissan report suggested that “abnormal high-temperature [during] continued use of partial clutch engagement might be the cause.”
Emails exchanged between Nissan employees in 2012 further discussed the sticky clutch problem and its potential causes, and in July 2012 a Nissan project engineer wrote:
"This issue is great enough that it warrants a serious look by R&D as to how we can improve the feel, and function of the clutch system. . . . Customers are universally dissatisfied with the feel and performance of the system even when it is performing as designed. . . . Combine that with the frequent claims of clutch pedal sticking to floor and you’ve taken a dissatisfaction item and made it into a breakdown item. I think a wholesale approach to a whole new hydraulic system, including a new pedal, is warranted."
The district court judge ruled against the plaintiff concerning class action certification based on the damages model.
According to the plaintiff, his “damages model is based on the economic principle of benefit-of-the-bargain and is consistent with [his] theory of liability.” The plaintiff argued affected owners would have either paid less than sticker price or not purchased the vehicles at all had Nissan told them about the alleged clutch problems.
The lawsuit was filed “to recover the difference in value between the non-defective vehicles Nissan promised and the defective vehicles that were delivered based on the cost to replace the composite CSC with one that is solid cast-aluminum.”
Nissan argued the damages model was correct by citing the report of an expert who “rejected the notion that average-cost-of-repair represented the amount that informed consumers would discount the price of the [Class] Vehicles.”
The district court agreed with Nissan and denied the plaintiff’s motion for class certification, which has now been overturned on appeal.
According to the Ninth Circuit, the plaintiff's claims were viable concerning the California’s Consumers Legal Remedies Act, the Song-Beverly Consumer Warranty Act and the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act.
The panel ruled the plaintiff showed a connection between his legal theory and the damages model.
According to the appeals court, the legal theory argues Nissan violated California law by selling vehicles with defective clutch systems not reflected in the sale price. The damages model, according to the panel, is based on the average cost of vehicle repairs.
The Nissan clutch class action lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California - Nguyen v. Nissan North America Inc.
The plaintiff is represented by Capstone Law APC.
CarComplaints.com has complaints about the Infiniti and Nissan vehicles.