California Right to Repair Act doesn't allow class actions, court rules

By Tomas Kassahun | Dec 5, 2018

LOS ANGELES (Legal Newsline) – The Court of Appeal of the State of California 2nd Appellate District Division Four has reversed a trial court’s ruling against Kohler Co., saying homeowners can’t bring a class action lawsuit against the manufacturer of an allegedly defective plumbing fixture used in the construction of class members’ homes.

In the ruling filed on Nov. 14, the appeals court said the Right to Repair Act doesn’t allow class actions.

“Class actions are not allowed under the Act except in one limited context: to assert claims that address solely the incorporation into a residence of a defective component, unless that component is a product that is completely manufactured offsite,” the opinion stated. 

Because the claim in this case involves allegedly defective products that were completely manufactured offsite, the appeal court said the claim alleged under the Act cannot be litigated as a class action.

“Accordingly, we grant the writ petition filed by defendant Kohler Co. and issue a writ of mandate directing the trial court to vacate its order to the extent it denied in part Kohler’s anti-class certification motion and to enter a new order granting the motion in its entirety,” the opinion stated.

The appeals court said plaintiffs Joanna Park-Kim and Maria Cecilia Ramos are owners of a residential condominium in which Rite-Temp Pressure Balancing Valves and Mixer Caps were installed during construction. The valves and mixer caps were manufactured by Kohler and were supposed to regulate water flow and temperature.

The plaintiffs alleged that the valves and mixer caps don’t work as intended because of their defective design and manufacturing.

Plaintiffs brought the lawsuit on behalf of themselves and all owners of residential dwellings in California in which the valves and mixer caps were installed during original construction, according to the opinion.

“After plaintiffs received numerous extensions of time, totaling 18 months, to file their motion for class certification, Kohler sought to resolve the case by filing a motion for summary judgment or adjudication on threshold legal issues,” the appeals court said. "The trial court granted summary adjudication as to all claims except plaintiff Ramos’ warranty and negligence claims, as well as both plaintiffs’ claims under the Act and their UCL claims," the opinion stated.

Kohler then filed a “motion re: anti-class-certification,” seeking a ruling that none of the remaining causes of action can be certified as a class action, according to the opinion.

After the trial court denied the anti-class certification motion, Kohler filed the petition for writ of mandate in the appeals court to vacate the trial court's Jan. 22 ruling.

“We summarily denied the petition and Kohler filed a petition for review in the Supreme Court,” the opinion stated. “The Supreme Court granted review and transferred the matter back to this court with directions to vacate our order denying mandate and to issue an order directing the superior court to show cause why the relief sought should not be granted.”

The appeal court said Kohler shall recover its costs with regard to this writ proceeding.

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