BMW Can’t Put Brakes On Faulty Hybrid Battery Suit

 A New Jersey federal judge won’t let BMW of North America LLC escape a proposed class action over batteries in hybrid models it recalled in 2020, saying the buyer pushing the suit has sufficiently alleged BMW was aware of the defect and failed to disclose it prior to the recall.

U.S. District Judge Kevin McNulty denied most of BMW’s bid to dismiss the suit led by William Martin Burbank, only dismissing his claim for breach of implied covenant of good faith as inadequately pled because it does not appear distinguishable from his breach of warranty claim.

Burbank bought one of BMW’s hybrids on Sept. 14, 2020, but just over two weeks later, BMW issued a recall on his model and other vehicles advising that the batteries could cause a “thermal event,” and that owners should drain the batteries and operate the vehicles only on gasoline.

Burbank sued in California, bringing five state law claims, and later had the case transferred to New Jersey, where BMW moved to have the case dismissed on several grounds.

BMW argued Burbank does not have standing to pursue claims based on vehicle models other than his own, but Judge McNulty said at this point, the claims are similar enough and the products are closely related, given they are all hybrids with the same alleged defect, and BMW is the only defendant.

And while BMW argued Burbank hadn’t shown it knew of the defect before the recall, the judge pointed to Burbank’s pleading that there was another, related recall on other vehicles the month prior, and the recall on Burbank’s vehicle came just over two weeks after his vehicle was sold.

That is enough to allege BMW had or gained knowledge of the defect before Burbank bought the car, the judge wrote, at least enough to proceed to discovery.

The judge also allowed Burbank’s express warranty claim to go forward, as he sufficiently alleged the battery issue was a manufacturing, not design, defect, given BMW’s own statements that the batteries in the recall may not have been made to specifications, with debris created in the manufacturing process causing the defect.


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