FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (Legal Newsline) - A federal judge has denied General Motors' motion to dismiss in a class action lawsuit that claims the company applied safety-rating stickers to vehicles that did not have the highest ratings.
District Judge James I. Cohn ruled that a complaint should not be dismissed simply because the court is doubtful that the plaintiff will be able to prove all of the necessary factual allegations, according to an order on the defendant's motion to dismiss filed Dec. 11 in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida.
"Accordingly, a well-pleaded complaint will survive a motion to dismiss 'even if it appears that a recovery is very remote and unlikely,'" the order states.
The court had little difficulty concluding that the plaintiffs have satisfied their burden to plead the required material misrepresentations and substantial injury, according to the motion.
"Plaintiffs plead that defendant conspicuously advertised that its car received safety ratings that in fact it did not," the order states. "Accordingly, plaintiffs allege that they 'were damaged because the automobiles they purchased or leased did not contain the safety ratings that were represented, making the automobiles less valuable than the automobiles would have been had [defendant’s] representations been true.'"
Florida’s appellate courts have found such allegations sufficient to sustain a Florida Unfair and Deceptive Trade Practices Act claim, it says.
"Moreover, even in the absence of such case law, it seems reasonable that representations concerning the safety rating that a government agency assigned to a vehicle are material and that overstating this vehicle’s safety ratings substantially harms the vehicle’s purchaser," the order states.
The defendant argued that the court should dismiss the plaintiffs' class allegations under the Tennessee Consumer Protection Act.
"Defendant points to the Tennessee Supreme Court’s decision in Walker v. Sunrise Pontiac-GMC Truck...holding that the statute's language forecloses a class action," the order states. "This matter is settled in Tennessee state court. But whether this language effectively overrides Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23 appears unresolved."
Cohn said the court need not address the issue at this time and the "question of class certification is generally not addressed on a motion to dismiss."
"Plaintiffs filed a motion for class certification along with their amended complaint," the order states. "The court holds that motion in abeyance. Rather than determine the propriety of plaintiffs’ efforts to bring their TCPA claims as a class action at this stage, the court will address the matter when resolving Plaintiff’s motion for class certification."
The defendants filed their motion to dismiss on Oct. 3, stating that the amended complaint does not state a claim as a matter of law under any of the causes of action alleged.
"Plaintiffs assert that, when they purchased their vehicles, the window stickers on the vehicles contained an 'inadvertent error' with regard to safety ratings assigned by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration...and thus they say that their vehicles are allegedly 'less valuable,'" the defendant's motion to dismiss states.
Based upon the facts as the plaintiffs have alleged them, they have failed to state a claim under either Florida or Tennessee law — the two laws that they contend are at issue, according to the motion.
The class action was initially filed on June 20. An amended complaint was filed on Aug. 22.
Geri Siano Carriuolo and Peter Bracchi claimed General Motors was false and deceptive in putting "Monroney" stickers on its vehicles that represented those vehicles had the highest safety ratings in certain categories by the NHTSA, when the vehicles, in fact, had not received those ratings.
Carriuolo purchased his vehicle on Dec. 29, 2013, in Sunrise, Fla., while Bracchi purchased his on Nov. 9, 2013, in Brentwood, Tenn. Both purchased 2014 Cadillac CTS Sedans.
The plaintiffs are represented by Jeffrey M. Liggio of Liggio Benrubi in West Palm Beach, Fla.,and Don Fountain of Clark, Fountain, La Vista, Prather, Keen & Littky-Rubin in West Palm Beach, Fla.
The defendant is represented by Laurie M. Riley of Jones Walker LLP in Miami and David G. Radlauer and Thomas A. Casey Jr. of Jones Walker LLP in New Orleans.
U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida case number: 0:14-cv-61429
From Legal Newsline: Kyla Asbury can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.