Attorney: Plaintiff's reimbursement approach was key to class denial in Chrysler suit

By Robert Lawson | Nov 23, 2016

SAN FRANCISCO (Legal Newsline) — In a lawsuit against Chrysler, plaintiff Steve Doyle will not be able to certify the suit as class action, and an attorney from Benesch, Friedlander, Coplan & Aronoff LLP provided an explanation for the rejection by the Ninth Court of Appeals.

Doyle sued Chrysler, alleging the company failed to disclose a defect in its window regulator replacements. Doyle intended to bring a class action lawsuit for those who both purchased Chrysler’s replacement regulator, or otherwise had a replacement regulator installed.

The decision came Oct. 24 at the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. In a California Consumers Legal Remedies Act case against Chrysler, Doyle's request to certify as class action, previously granted by a district court, was denied after Chrysler appealed. 

Chrysler attorneys successfully argued Doyle’s partial reimbursement damages model does not stand up the test in the Supreme Court’s decision in Comcast Corp. v. Behrend. They also argued that the district court failed to account for the typicality and adequacy requirements of Rule 23, because Doyle only purchased a regulator. However, Doyle's case came apart in Chrysler's appeal because the proposed class included people who never purchased a regulator but had one installed.

"The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court’s certification of the class because Doyle failed to satisfy several of Rule 23’s requirements – namely predominance, typicality, and adequacy," said attorney Anthony C. Sallah in an email to Legal Newsline. "But the main reason underpinning Doyle’s failure to satisfy those requirements is his proposed class was defined as persons who both purchased a replacement part and those who had one installed. 

"Doyle himself purchased a replacement regulator, so his claim was not typical of individuals that did not purchase a replacement regulator, but instead had one installed. And he could not adequately represent the proposed class members because his damages model – a partial reimbursement approach – did not account for individuals that had a window regulator 'installed,' and thus had no out of pocket expenses to reimburse. Essentially, the Ninth Circuit determined that those individuals would be better off bringing their own lawsuits and seeking their own damages, likely for repairs."

Sallah mentioned the importance of being able to measure damages on a classwide basis.

"Finally, Doyle’s damages model was not measurable on a class level [or a 'classwide basis] because it could not produce a classwide result," Sallah said. "His partial reimbursement theory simply couldn’t account for those individuals that did not pay for a replacement regulator. Although individualized findings regarding damages – or how much each class member would be entitled to – will not always prevent class certification, Doyle didn’t have a common methodology for determining those damages."

If Doyle's methodology was faulty, why did the previous court rule in his favor?

"The district court’s class certification decision focused on Doyle’s allegation of the existence of a common defect, rather than the 'purchased' vs. 'installed' distinction highlighted by the Ninth Circuit," Sallah said. "The district court reasoned that because all class members were alleged to have suffered “injury” due to the same conduct of Chrysler – a defect in its replacement regulators – class certification was proper because any damage award would compensate for this single injury. 

"Unfortunately for Doyle, the Ninth Circuit found convincing that some class members purchased replacement regulators while others did not, and as such, Doyle did not have a common damages methodology for the class members."

Doyle could appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court but chances are slim they will hear the case anyway. 

"The case is back in the district court, where the parties will likely confer together with the district court judge on how the case will proceed," Sallah said. "Doyle could have filed a petition for rehearing en banc, which essentially asks the court of appeals to reconsider a decision of the panel of the court, but he did not." 

The case is Doyle v. Chrysler Group, LLCDoyle was represented by attorneys from Arias Ozello & Gignac LLP, Foley Bezek Behle & Curtis LLP and Goldenberg Schneider & Groh LPA. 

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