A putative class action against Volvo Cars of North America, LLC, and Volvo Car Corporation (“Volvo”) alleges a defect in the sunroof drainage system of certain Volvo automobiles is causing damage to the passenger floor pans, safety-related electrical sensors and wiring, and other vehicle components.
The lawsuit alleges that six Volvo vehicle models (“Class Vehicles”) are predisposed to a sunroof drainage system defect that “leads to the accumulation of dirt, debris, and other naturally occurring particles within the sunroof water drainage system, as well as the kinking of tubing within the drainage system.” The sunroof drainage systems on those vehicles allegedly contained defective sound plugs attached to the drainage tubes, trapping water in the passenger compartment floorpans, and damaging various interior components, carpets, and safety-related electrical sensors and wiring. The plaintiffs allege this defect typically manifests shortly after the limited warranty period has expired, and “will inevitably cause extensive damage to the Class Vehicles by allowing an ingress of water.” Specifically, the plaintiffs claim the water is intended to be directed to the vehicle’s exterior, but instead ends up within the passenger compartment, posing a safety risk “since the ingress of water can damage important electrical items and/or sensors.”
The Class Vehicles are:
- V70 (2004 to 2011)
- XC90 (2003 to 2011)
- V50 (2005 to 2011)
Plaintiffs raise claims of breach of express warranty, breach of implied warranty of merchantability, common law fraud, and breach of the duty of good faith and fair dealing, as well as other state law claims. Plaintiffs allege Volvo “has long been well aware of the Sunroof Drainage Defect” and has issued Technical Service Bulletins to attempt to address this alleged defect in many of the Class Vehicles, yet “routinely refused to repair the Vehicles without charge when the defect manifests.”
The five named Plaintiffs allege as follows in the Complaint with respect to their Volvos:
- Joanne Neale, from Massachusetts, bought a pre-owned 2005 Volvo V50 5-door wagon. In 2010, she noticed her interior carpet was wet and she heard a “sloshing” sound when braking and turning corners. She took the vehicle to a Volvo dealer and service center for a diagnosis, where a technician informed her she was experiencing a common problem with sunroofs in Volvo vehicles, and Neale was charged approximately $592 to attempt to repair the defect. She was informed the service and repairs would not be covered under her vehicle warranty since the problem was allegedly caused by an “outside influence.”
- Keri Hay, from Maryland, purchased a pre-owned 2005 Volvo XC90. In 2009, she noticed the rear floor mats in her vehicle were wet and took her vehicle to a Volvo dealer and service center. A technician told her she was experiencing a common problem with the sunroof drain systems in XC90 vehicles, and Hay was charged approximately $775 to attempt to repair the defect. She alleges Volvo has been unwilling to investigate or address her complaint about this issue, advising her the problem is not a “warranty issue” and she should be vigilant about checking the sunroof drains for clogs in the future. She alleges that since then, her vehicle has experienced electrical issues including shorts in the steering wheel controls for the radio and CD changer. After several months of discussions, the Volvo dealer and service center decided to repair such issues under warranty.
- Kelly McGary, from Florida, bought a 2004 Volvo XC90 T6. Around December 2009, McGary brought her car into Volvo of Tampa because water was leaking into the driver door area and was charged over $600 for service associated with an attempted sunroof drainage repair. Her invoice stated: “SUNROOF DRAINS BLOCKED REMOVED A PILLARS AND MODIFIED SUNROOF DRAINS. REMOVED FRONT AND REAR CARPETS TO DRY.” She again experienced the sunroof defect around January 2010 and was charged over $100 by Volvo of Tampa for labor associated with the issue.
- Svein Berg, from New York, purchased a pre-owned 2004 Volvo XC90 while living in Hawaii. In 2009, he took his vehicle to a Volvo certified repair shop in Hawaii for repairs for damage caused by the sunroof drainage defect and was charged nearly $1,000 for diagnostics, labor, and parts associated with replacing the yaw rate sensor under the passenger seat. Around January 2009, he paid nearly $200 for additional repairs resulting from the sunroof drainage defect.
- Gregory Burns, from New Jersey, leased and later purchased a 2006 Volvo V50 5-door wagon. In 2010, he noticed a water leak in his vehicle causing water to puddle on the rear driver’s side floorboard area, as well as water exiting the air vent under the driver’s seat. A Volvo dealer and service center verified his complaints and found that “the sunroof drains [were] clogged on the [left side].” The technician replaced the sound trap, reinstalled the sunroof drain, and verified the right side was draining without issue. Burns was charged about $258 for this service. Later in 2010, he noticed a water leak around the lower portion of the passenger side dashboard associated with the sunroof drain; the service center tested the right side sunroof drains but could not duplicate the problem he had observed at that time.
The plaintiffs seek remedies including damages and that Defendants be required to repair, recall, and/or replace the Class Vehicles and extend the applicable warranties to a reasonable period of time, or, at minimum, to provide an appropriate curative notice regarding the existence and cause of the alleged design defect.
The court denied Defendants’ motion to dismiss Plaintiffs’ complaint in 2011. The parties are currently undergoing discovery on class certification. The case is Neale et al. v. Volvo Cars of North America, LLC et al., case number 2:10-cv-04407, in the District Court of New Jersey.