Justices affirm class action status for GM brakes lawsuit

Chris Rizo Jun. 21, 2008, 1:10pm

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (Legal Newsline)-A lawsuit alleging General Motors sold 4 million vehicles with defectively designed parking brakes was OK'd to proceed as a class action lawsuit by the Arkansas Supreme Court.

The high court ruled Thursday that Miller County Circuit Judge Jim Hudson did not err in granting class certification to Boyd Bryant, who is suing the automaker.

Bryant is suing the Detroit-based automaker on behalf of himself and all others in the nation who purchased the allegedly faulty vehicles. He filed his suit in September 2006.

Bryant alleges that between 1999 and 2002 General Motors sold pickups and sport utility vehicles with parking brakes that had a design flaw.

He alleges that GM discovered the defect in late 2000, but withheld from dealers its responsibility for the defect until January 2003. He accused the automaker of avoiding paying millions of dollars in warranty claims be concealing the design flaw.

The lawsuit accuses GM of fraudulent concealment, unjust enrichment and breach of express and implied warranties and seeks damages for repairs or reimbursement.

Hudson ruled in January 2007 that Bryant had satisfied all of the requirements for class certification.

GM argued on appeal that the trial court judge should have determined which jurisdiction's laws would apply in the case, since they vary state by state.

The state Supreme Court said Hudson was correct not to conduct a so-called choice-of-law analysis.

"Were we to require the circuit court to conclude at this time precisely which law should be applied, such a decision could potentially stray into the merits of the action itself, which we have clearly stated shall not occur during the certification process," Justice Paul Danielson wrote for the court.

From Legal Newsline: Reach reporter Chris Rizo by e-mail at chrisrizo@legalnewsline.com.

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