Court Dismisses Putative Class Action Alleging Defective Tires, in Part for Failing to Allege Injuries or Damages

A New Jersey federal court dismissed a putative class action against an automobile manufacturer and a tire manufacturer for failing to state claims for which the court could grant relief, ruling separately on motions to dismiss brought by both defendants. Greene v. BMW of North America, et al, No. 2:11-04220 (D.N.J., Nov. 28, 2012). The lawsuit asserted causes of action for breaches of warranty related to allegedly defective tires, although the plaintiff did not allege any personal injury or property damage. While this case involved alleged violations of consumer rights laws, it is similar to some products liability claims alleging damages caused by a dangerous or defective product.

The plaintiff, David Greene, leased a BMW automobile that was equipped with Potenza Run Flat Tires, a product of the tire manufacturer Bridgestone. Greene alleged that he noticed a bubble in the side of the left-rear tire less than six months into the lease, followed by two bubbles in the right-front tire over the next twelve months. He claimed that the bubbles made operation of the car “distractingly loud,” “[un]controlled,” and “dangerous.” Slip opinion on BMW’s motion to dismiss (BMW opinion) at 5, slip opinion on Bridgestone’s motion to dismiss (Bridgestone opinion) at 7. When the mileage on the car reached 13,800, he sought advice regarding the condition of the tires. He claimed that multiple representatives of BMW dealerships informed him that this type of tire often developed bubbles before the vehicle hit 14,000 miles. They also allegedly told him that he should replace the tires immediately. Greene requested the dealership from which he leased the BMW to provide replacement tires, but claims that they refused. He then purchased the same model of tire online.

Greene filed suit in U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey against BMW of North America, which manufactured the automobile, and the tire manufacturer, Bridgestone Americas Tire Operations, formerly known as Bridgestone Firestone North American Tire. He asserted six causes of action against the defendants, including breaches of express and implied warranties under federal and state law, breach of the common law implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing, and violations of the New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act. He sought certification as a class action on behalf of owners and lessees of BMW automobiles with the same type of tires, and demanded $5 million in damages for himself and the class.

Both defendants filed motions to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). The court granted both motions, dismissing the causes of action for breach of express warranty with prejudice, and dismissing the other claims without prejudice. The lack of any allegations of property damage or injury was a substantial factor in the court’s decision. In dismissing the claim for breach of the implied warranty of merchantability, the court noted that Greene was able to continue driving the car on the same set of tires for a year after discovering the first bubble, and that he replaced the bubbling tires with the same tire model. BMW opinion at 5-6, Bridgestone opinion at 7.

At Lebowitz & Mzhen, we help people in the Washington, DC area recover their just compensation when they have suffered injuries due to defective or dangerous products. For a free and confidential consultation, contact us today online or at (800) 654-1949.

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Photo credit: By CMEarnest (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons.

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