Our firm is proud to announce that name partner Vincent DiTommaso won a victory for class-action plaintiffs in Missouri with Dale v. DaimlerChrysler Corp., 204 S.W.3d 151, 172 (Mo. App. 2006). Plaintiff Kevin Dale originally sued the auto manufacturer under the federal Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act, (MMWA) over a breach of warranty for defective power window regulators (the mechanism that raises and lowers the window) on Dodge Durangos. Despite eight repair attempts, Dale contended, Dodge had failed to repair or replace the defective power window regulator in his truck.
Dale’s suit asked the Circuit Court of Boone County, Missouri to certify a class of Dodge Durango owners who’d had similar problems. The court certified two classes: One national class that relied on the MMWA, and one limited to Durango owners in the State of Missouri, which relied on the Missouri Merchandising Practices Act (MMPA). DaimlerChrysler appealed the class certifications on multiple grounds under Missouri’s Rule 52.08, including numerosity and common-question-predominate requirements of the proposed class; typicality and adequacy of Dale as lead plaintiff; the implied definiteness of the class definition; and the superiority of a class action over other forms of adjudication.
The Missouri Court of Appeals for the Western District rejected all of these arguments, finding that the record was sufficient and DaimlerChrysler’s arguments insufficient to prove any of their claims. Two, however, were of interest to class-action attorneys. One had to do with Dale’s adequacy as a class plaintiff. Because Dale’s wife had worked for one of the law firms representing the class, defendants contended that he had an interest in maximizing attorney fees, a conflict of interests that should disqualify him. The judges disagreed, saying Dale’s wife didn’t necessarily stand to gain any extra pay from the case, and they declined to bar lead plaintiffs with such an indirect connection to the class attorneys. In fact, they wrote, “we believe that it should be a matter of discretion with the trial court, decided on a case-by-case basis.”
The other point arose from DaimlerChrysler’s contention that the class requirements actually determined the merits of the proposed class’s claim, because the class was defined as people who did not receive a certain type of repair whose necessity the automaker disputed. The court disagreed, ruling that the class definition merely required trial courts to decide whether a certain truck had or had not received that repair; it was still up to the trial itself to determine whether that repair was the one required.
Since this case’s publication in 2006, we’ve been pleased to see that Dale v. DaimlerChrysler has already been cited in two Missouri Supreme Court opinions. Lubin Austermuehle is proud to have participated in both this class action and the setting precedent in Missouri. If you believe you’re a victim of widespread consumer fraud like this, contact our experienced consumer fraud class action attorneys for help.