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Court must re-examine certified classes in Volvo litigation

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A federal court should have done a better job of establishing the various classes it approved in class action litigation filed by Volvo car owners, says a federal appeals court in remanding the case.

Plaintiffs allege a uniform design defect in the sunroof drainage systems of certain Volvo models, according to Wednesday ruling's by the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia in Joanne Neal et al. v. Volvo Cars of North America, L.L.C., Volvo Car Corp.

In August 2012, plaintiffs proposed a nationwide class of current and former owners and lessees of the vehicles, which are manufactured by a unit of Gothenburg, Sweden-based Volvo Car Corp., according to the ruling.

In March 2013, the U.S. District Court in Newark, New Jersey, denied plaintiffs' motion to certify a nationwide class, but agreed to certify six statewide classes and denied Volvo's motion for summary judgment dismissing the case.

Volvo filed an appeal in the 3rd Circuit, and a unanimous three-judge panel held that the District Court should take a closer look at the certified classes.

A lack of clarity in plaintiffs' proposed classes and claims “combined with the district court's failure to address in detail or list the precise claims subject to class treatment, means that we would be required to engage in some level of guesswork were we to try to piece together the class claims,” says the ruling.

“We will not attempt to do so. We will vacate and remand to the district court so that it can provide a complete list of the class claim defenses and issues for each of the six statewide classes,” the ruling states.