— A Honda window regulator lawsuit won't move forward as a class action after an appeals court shot down that idea in a 2-1 ruling.
The plaintiff filed the original lawsuit by alleging defective Honda window regulators caused the windows to fall into the door frames.
The proposed class action included the 2000-2011 Honda Odyssey, Honda Pilot, Honda Element, Honda Accord, Honda CR-V, Honda Civic, and 2000-2011 Acura MDX, Acura TSX, Acura RL and Acura CL.
During the course of the lawsuit, the plaintiff dropped from the lawsuit all models except 2003-2008 Honda Pilots equipped with allegedly defective window regulators.
The district court judge refused to certify the lawsuit as a class action after the opinion of the expert for the plaintiff was found insufficient. The plaintiff's expert told the judge the Honda window regulators failed due to vibrations at certain frequencies.
The expert, an engineer, affirmed the view held by the plaintiff which argued the Honda Pilot window regulators were “insufficiently strong and insufficiently durable to withstand the forces required to perform [their] intended function.”
The expert testified he reviewed failed Honda Pilot window regulators and all appeared to have "failed at the ferrule-carrier interface, that is the portion of the carrier that supports the cable ferrule.”
The expert says the alleged problem is caused by “[a] significant design mistake made by Honda, and missed or ignored by [Honda’s expert], is just how quickly a high number of cycles is applied to the carrier due to the dynamic vibrational loading that occurs in the Vehicle Moving state.”
In other words, the internal mechanisms of the regulators were ultimately unable to withstand the vibrations caused by movements of the vehicles.
The expert also says “[f]atigue, in this case caused by vibration exposure, is important as it has been estimated that 90% of all mechanical service failures can be attributed to fatigue.”
In his opinion, Honda's window regulator testing wasn't good enough and the regulators were defectively designed.
Honda asked the expert questions concerning his standard for proper performance of the window regulators, and he responded the regulators “shouldn’t fail ever.” Even if the Honda Pilot is 30 years old, the expert says the “window regulator assembly should work the same way it worked when it was brand new . . . [i]f the car is still running.”
The expert told Honda a window regulator should work for the entire life of the vehicle, saying “[t]here’s no universal reason that a window regulator should fail.”
However, the expert also admitted there is no industry standard concerning the life of a window regulator. In addition, he also had no advice about how Honda should have designed the regulators properly.
The automaker filed a motion to exclude the expert opinion and the district court judge granted the motion after finding the expert "provide[d] no industry standards for window regulator replacement rates."
The judge also ruled the expert "relie[d] on no peer-reviewed literature relating to window regulator durability," and "provide[d] no information on average window regulator replacement rates."
In addition, the judge ruled the expert "provide[d] no consumer studies to substantiate his claim that consumers expect a window regulator to last forever."
The district court judge ruled the lawsuit couldn't continue as a class action because the expert's opinion was circular.
“Without some objective basis to indicate how long the regulators should last, alleging that they are defective as soon as they are installed is simply circular – the window regulators are defective because they do not last as long as they should, therefore they are defective.” - Judge Stephen V. Wilson
With the district court judge ruling the unrealiable expert opinion would be excluded, the plaintiffs appealed to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals which voted 2-1 in favor of Honda.
The appeals panel found the district court properly excluded the plaintiff's expert report due to deficiencies in his methodology and his lack of supporting studies or testing to show that a design defect exists.
The panel also ruled that without the expert report, the plaintiffs "failed to demonstrate commonality for a putative class action, as the remaining evidence consisted solely of highly individualized complaints."
The Honda window regulator lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California: Grodzitsky v. American Honda Motor Company.
The plaintiff is represented by Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein LLP, Glancy Prongay & Murray LLP, Tostrud Law Group P.C., and Shindler & Anderson Goplerud & Weese P.C.
To have an idea of what owners tell CarComplaints.com about Honda Pilot window regulator problems, check out complaints for the 2006 model year.