— A Volvo leaking sunroof lawsuit is still trying to reach class-action certification, six years after the original sunroof drain lawsuit was filed in August 2010.
Volvo and owners are still fighting in court over alleged leaking sunroofs in the 2004-present Volvo S40, S60, S80, V70 vehicles, 2005-present Volvo V50 sport wagons and 2003-present Volvo XC 90 SUVs.
The lawsuit was filed on behalf of current and former owners and lessees of the subject vehicles allegedly at risk of water damage due to leaking sunroofs. The lawsuit alleges water should stay outside the vehicles but instead enters the passenger compartments, causing damage to carpets, electronics, sensors and anything in the path of the invading water.
Owners report an assortment of vehicle parts that are damaged by the intruding water, including various control modules, hydraulic units, pumps, pressure generator assemblies, yaw rate sensors, lateral acceleration sensors and wheel sensors.
The Volvo sunroofs have electronic sliding glass panels with drainage systems made of holes and tubes to prevent water from intruding into the passenger compartments. Although the drain tubes should direct outside water to the underside of the vehicles, the plaintiffs say debris can clog the drains and direct water into the vehicles.
Lead plaintiff Joanne Neale says her 2005 Volvo V50 suffered from water damage to the interior carpet, causing a "sloshing" sound when driving around corners or hitting the brakes.
With 32,000 on the V50, Neale took the vehicle to her dealer and was told the leaking sunroof was to blame but the warranty wouldn't cover the repairs because the damage was caused by an "outside influence." The plaintiff claims her only choice was to pay the $592 repair bill.
The plaintiffs claim Volvo has known about the leaking sunroofs for years but concealed that knowledge from consumers. Additionally, the lawsuit alleges the Volvo vehicles typically suffer from leaking sunroofs shortly after the warranties expire, leaving customers with the expense of repairs.
Many Volvo owners have complained about the prospect of paying thousands of dollars to keep the vehicles safe to drive.
"Water leaked into my vehicle through the sunroof, destroyed the computer and air airbag system. The carpets are soaked with standing water sitting in the body of the front passenger side of the vehicle. I took my vehicle to the dealership and was told the sunroof drainage tubes where clogged. I was then quoted a price for repairs which totaled in excess of $2000." - 2006 Volvo S40 owner / Virginia Beach, Virginia
Separately, another S40 owner said they paid $1,000 just to keep vital systems functioning while driving.
"Vehicle passenger rear floor flooding continuously. One day the windshield wipers wouldn't turn off and none of the interior electrical equipment would work, no power windows or locks. Drove to Volvo, they stated clogged sunroof drain and that floormat had affected the ECM under the steering column. They cleared drain and cleaned floor for $1K. Very scary." - 2006 Volvo S40 owner / Columbus, Ohio
According to the lawsuit, Volvo equips the vehicles with an important safety feature called Dynamic Stability and Traction Control used to drive during hazardous weather. However, owners claim the system is just one of many that can experience outages and problems once water enters the vehicles.
Volvo owners say they weren't told the sunroof drain tubes needed maintenance, something the owner of a 2004 XC90 says they wish they would have known.
"Today, we learned our Volvo XC90's yaw rate sensor has failed. The root cause was water leaking into the passenger side of the car due to blocked moonroof (I.e. sunroof) drains, which shorted the yaw rate sensor. This impaired the electronic stability control and brakes of our Volvo, putting us at risk of accident. Even though easy and inexpensive regular maintenance would prevent expensive damage, neither the Volvo user manual nor maintenance service operations guides mention the need. The damage we and others have suffered was completely preventable." - 2004 Volvo XC90 owner / Mountain View, California
The plaintiffs say Volvo sent its dealerships technical service bulletins warning dealers about customers who complain about leaking sunroofs and the damage caused by waterlogged interiors. But Volvo plaintiffs claim even when the automaker issued a technical service bulletin to its dealers in 2005 concerning the sunroof drain tubes, dealers forced customers to cover the cost of new hoses.
After the sunroof leak lawsuit was filed in 2010, Volvo owners finally won class-action certification in 2013 for six states: California, Florida, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts and New Jersey, but in 2015 a court reversed the ruling. In reversing class-action certification, the Third Circuit declared the owner's claims were different than the claims listed in the class-action certification documents.
Six years later and Volvo owners are still trying to convince the judge the lawsuit should be certified as a class-action. Volvo and owners have battled over everything, including testimony of experts and the evidence submitted by the plaintiffs.
In its fight against certification, Volvo told the judge there is no way to prove every vehicle owner experienced damage from water and it would be impossible to prove damage was caused by a leaking sunroof.
The Volvo leaking sunroof lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey - Neale, et al. v. Volvo Cars of North America LLC, et al.
The owners are represented by Caddell & Chapman, Crowley Norman LLP, Chimicles & Tikellis LLP, Mazie Slater Katz & Freeman LLC, Fisher Boyd Brown & Huguenard, McCuneWright LLP, Lite DePalma Greenberg LLC, and Shepherd Finkelman Miller & Shah.