A British Columbia court has allowed a certified class- action suit to proceed against Nissan Canada and Nissan North America stemming from allegedly defective timing chains on about 64,000 vehicles.
The provincial Court of Appeal found sufficient evidence for claims of negligent design, manufacturing and sales, misrepresentation, and consumer protection violations to go forward.
However, it tossed out express warranty and unjust enrichment claims while authorizing the plaintiff, Tobias Mueller, to amend the complaint to address the deficiencies.
The case involves the Maxima, Altima, Quest, Pathfinder, Xterra and Frontier for various model years from 2004-10.
Writing for a unanimous panel, Justice Susan Griffin said, “The evidence is that in the time frame covered by the proposed class, Nissan vehicles experienced higher-than-expected warranty claims related to the timing chain mechanisms and issued a series of Technical Service Bulletins [TSBs] to dealerships, qualified technicians and Transport Canada, addressing issues with the timing chain mechanisms.”
“The TSBs indicate that noise in the engine is a symptom of the timing chain mechanism failure, requiring replacement of the part,” she wrote in the court’s Oct. 5 ruling.
Nissan countered that Mueller didn’t show “some basis in fact for the assertion that the class vehicles showed a common defect, or that the defect was dangerous,” the decision said.
However, the court cited testimony from Mueller, a second person who purchased a used Nissan vehicle and a certified automotive service technician supporting the allegations that the vehicles were defective.
“The essence of the claim is that the defective part has failed or will likely fail before the expected lifetime of the product, and failure of the part could result in significant harm to persons or property,” the court said. “The claim pleads that the timing chain is an ‘integral part’ and an ‘essential component’ of the vehicles” and “the defective part must be replaced to avoid the risk of potential harm.”
A trial is necessary to decide what would be “a reasonable way of dealing with the defect, including the scope of a remedy,” the decision said.
The suit also contends that Nissan’s alleged failure to warn new-vehicle buyers misrepresented that the vehicles were safe and that purchasers wouldn’t have bought their vehicles if they had been aware of the misrepresentation.
The appellate decision modified a ruling by a lower court judge who had allowed all Mueller’s claims to go forward.
The suit seeks an unspecified amount of compensatory damages for economic loss, inconvenience and mental distress, as well as punitive damages – claiming Nissan “prioritized corporate profits over the protection and security” of vehicle owners.
Nissan opposed certifying the case as a class action, arguing in court documents that there is no evidence the vehicles shared the same alleged defect., “Not all the vehicles came with the same primary timing chain design and therefore they do not all contain the same component parts,” it said.