Judge Margaret M. Morrow of California’s Central District has certified two classes of Honda Civic owners and lessees alleging that certain model years of the vehicles have a rear-suspension defect that could cause uneven and premature wear on the rear tires. See Keegan v. American Honda Motor Co., No. 10-cv-09508 (C.D. Cal. June 12, 2012) (Order Granting in Part and Denying in Part Plaintiffs’ Motion for Class Certification) (available here). Plaintiffs are seeking relief pursuant to California’s Consumer Legal Remedies Act (CLRA), Unfair Competition Law (UCL), Song-Beverly Act, and Commercial Code § 2313, as well as the federal Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act and consumer protection and implied warranty statutes of various other states. Order at 1.
The certification ruling is notable in that a full Daubert analysis of the plaintiffs’ and defendant’s proffered experts was conducted, and expert testimony that failed to satisfy the Daubert threshold was excluded. See id. at 9-19. Though such decisions by a federal district court do not have binding precedential effect, Judge Morrow’s choice to conduct a full Daubert analysis is likely to become more the rule than the exception, particularly after the U.S. Supreme Court, in Wal-Mart v. Dukes, expressed skepticism of a district court’s finding that Daubert does not apply to class certification proceedings. See Wal-Mart v. Dukes, 131 S. Ct. 2541, 2554 (2011).
The Keegan court extensively considered the parties’ opposing views of commonality, concluding that the defendant’s arguments were “based on a misapprehension of what commonality demands.” Order at 25. Honda had argued (as many defendants opposing class certification do) that particular differences between class members’ experiences resulted in the predominance of individual issues, and that “proving liability will require determining whether the tire wear each class vehicle suffered was premature or excessive.” Id. at 25-26. Judge Morrow disagreed, however, explaining that commonality requires only that class members’ allegations share common issues of law or fact such that all claims for relief will be sufficiently presented, and “[t]he fact that some vehicles have not yet manifested premature or excessive tire wear is not sufficient, standing alone, to defeat commonality.” Id. at 26.
Keegan is viewed as a major victory for plaintiffs, and will likely be invoked to support certification in other consumer class actions, whether involving automobile defects or otherwise.