Honda Civic AC Lawsuit Shut Down by Appeals Court

Class action includes Honda Civic (2- and 4-Door), Honda Civic (Hatchback) and Civic Type R.

Honda Civic AC Lawsuit Shut Down by Appeals Court

Posted in News

— A Honda Civic air conditioner (AC) lawsuit has been shut down by an appeals court that agreed with the lower court which originally dismissed the class action lawsuit.

The Honda Civic AC lawsuit includes 2016-2020 Honda Civic (2- and 4-Door), 2017-2021 Honda Civic (Hatchback) and 2017-2021 Civic Type R cars.

The final version of the class action includes 21 Civic owners who contend the air conditioning systems are defective. The Civic AC lawsuit core arguments are based on claims of failed air conditioners from cracks in the systems and leaks of refrigerant.

According to the class action, Honda Civic drivers have problems because the cars use the R-1234yf refrigerant compared to the R-134a refrigerant.  But the plaintiffs assert the AC systems can't handle the R-1234yf refrigerant which cause the vehicles to lose their cooling features.

The plaintiffs also argue leaks in the condensers or compressors cause AC problems, but the plaintiffs also claim the evaporators and discharge and suction lines fail.

Honda allegedly knows about AC failures but won't recall the Civics.

The Honda Civic AC class action lawsuit was consolidated from Wong v. American Honda and Munoz v. American Honda.

A separate case titled Elkins v. American Honda had already been dismissed.

Honda Civic AC Lawsuit Dismissed, Appealed, Now Over

The district court judge who heard the case dismissed it, but the plaintiffs appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. The plaintiffs argue their implied warranty of merchantability claims and their fraud and consumer protection claims should not have been dismissed.

According to the Ninth Circuit, the district court properly dismissed the implied warranty claims brought under the laws of California, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, North Carolina, Oregon and Washington. The claims fail because those states require a buyer to establish "contractual privity" with the manufacturer (Honda).

The appeals court ruled a plaintiff “must stand in vertical contractual privity” with Honda (the manufacturer) to bring an implied warranty claim, and generally, “an end consumer . . . who buys from a retailer is not in privity with a manufacturer."

The implied warranty claims brought under the laws of Indiana, Michigan, Missouri, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Texas and Virginia fail because the plaintiffs didn't plead a breach of the implied warranty of merchantability claim during the vehicle warranty period.

"Honda’s New Vehicle Limited Warranty limits the implied warranty of merchantability to the duration of the express warranty, namely the earlier of three years or 36,000 miles. By the time the Appellants were denied a free warranty repair, this period had already lapsed." — Ninth Circuit

The plaintiffs try to get around the issue by arguing the alleged air conditioner defects existed when the Honda Civics were first sold, well within the warranty periods.

The plaintiffs cite California law for their argument, but the appeals court says California has been criticized for "rendering meaningless any durational limits on implied warranties.”

The appeals court ruled the plaintiffs "have not cited any cases establishing that other states have followed California’s approach, so they have failed to show a breach of the implied warranty during the warranty period."

As for fraud and consumer protection claims, the Ninth Circuit found the district court properly dismissed these claims because the plaintiffs did not adequately allege Honda had knowledge of the alleged AC defect prior to purchase of the Civics in 2016, 2017 and 2018.

The plaintiffs contend Honda knew about alleged Civic AC problems because customers had complained about their air conditioners.

However, the appeals court looked at the arguments and determined "allegations regarding pre-sale testing are too general and conclusory to support an inference of knowledge."

"The vast majority of consumer complaints were made after Appellants purchased the Class Vehicles, and the remaining complaints are too few in number to suggest Honda had knowledge of the defect." — Appeals court

The Ninth Circuit also found Honda’s technical bulletins and its communications with dealerships fail to show pre-sale knowledge.

The class action lawsuit further alleges Honda knew of the alleged Civic AC defects before the vehicles were sold because there was a high demand for air conditioning parts and components.

The lawsuit says some parts were on nationwide backorder, but the appeals court says the allegation doesn't prove Honda had pre-sale knowledge of alleged air conditioning problems.

"The only specific allegation in this section is that certain parts were backordered in 2019, which is too late to establish pre-sale knowledge." — Ninth Circuit

The Honda Civic AC lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California: Wong, et al., v. American Honda Motor Co., Inc., et al.

The plaintiffs are represented by McCune Wright Arevalo LLP, Milberg Coleman Bryson Phillips Grossman PLLC, Bradley/Grombacher LLP, Cafferty Clobes Meriwether & Sprengel LLP, and Berger Montague PC.