Court Denies Volkswagen’s Motion to Dismiss Claims from Exploding Sunroofs Lawsuit

Court Denies Volkswagen’s Motion to Dismiss Claims from Exploding Sunroofs Lawsuit

  • By: Staff Writer
  • Published December 23, 2020

Plaintiffs’ second amended complaint in a putative class action alleging “spontaneously shatter[ing]” sunroofs in certain Volkswagen (VW) models has survived VW’s motion to dismiss certain claims.

The second amended complaint alleges “[t]he shattering events are so powerful that startled drivers compare it to the sound of a gunshot, after which glass fragments rain down upon the occupant of the vehicle, sometimes while driving at highway speeds.” They allege drivers have reported that: falling glass shards have cut them and their passengers; glass shards have also damaged the interior of the vehicles; and the issue has caused near-miss accidents due to the drivers being startled or distracted by the shattering. They contend VW has known about the sunroof defect at least dating as far back as December 2009.

The named plaintiffs are bringing their action on behalf of themselves and all others similarly situated who purchased or leased class vehicles in the state of California. The VW models with the allegedly defective factory-installed sunroofs include the following:

  • 2005-2017 Jetta
  • 2015-2017 Golf
  • 2006-2015 GTI
  • 2009-2010 CC
  • 2007-2016 EOS
  • 2006-2009 Rabbit
  • 2012-2017 Passat
  • 2004-2006 Touareg
  • 2011-2017 Touareg
  • 2008 R32 Base
  • 2009-2017 Tiguan

The plaintiffs allege VW “has long known, through [National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) complaints, through consumer complaints lodged directly with VW, through consumer complaints lodged through VW dealerships, and through VW’s own testing, that the Sunroof Defect exists.” They contend that while sunroof materials are relatively low-cost, making them profitable for the automotive industry, they are an expensive upgrade for consumers, and VW has “systematically denied coverage with respect to the defective sunroofs.”

The complaint raises claims of breach of implied warranty, violations of California’s Unfair Competition Law and Consumers Legal Remedies Act, breach of the implied warranty of merchantability, and fraud by omission. The plaintiffs seek remedies including damages, an order requiring VW to disclose and repair the defective sunroofs and cease distributing defective sunroofs in future VW vehicles pending an investigation, and attorney fees.

In February 2019, the court denied VW’s motion to dismiss certain claims in Plaintiffs’ second amended complaint. The court noted it had previously dismissed UCL, CLRA, and fraud by omission claims from the first amended complaint because the facts plaintiffs cited did not establish the requisite knowledge of the alleged defect. In declining to dismiss claims in the second amended complaint, the court noted the plaintiffs had alleged additional facts, including expanding on the NHTSA investigations, prior recalls, and the KATRI investigation. “Viewed in a light most favorable to Plaintiffs” at this point, the Court found “the [second amended allegations] are sufficient to raise a plausible inference of knowledge.”

The parties are currently engaged in discovery. Under the current scheduling order, discovery and proceedings related to class certification are scheduled through early 2021, with a motion hearing set in March 2021.

The case is Deras v. Volkswagen Group of America, Inc., case number 4:17-cv-05452-JST, in the District Court for the Northern District of California.

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