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  • By Jordan W. Charness

    Have you looked under the hood of a new car recently? If you are a baby boomer or even a generation Xer, you probably won’t recognize anything you see there. Gone are the twisted wires and round thingamgigs that you can easily identify as a carburetor, air cleaner filter housing, master brake cylinder, etc. Instead, you find a sleek engine compartment with most of its components hidden behind a master cover plate or two, or else reshaped and rebuilt.

    No matter what the engine compartment looks like or what year it came from, all cars must safely accomplish the same things. They must take you from point A to point B reliably. New technology does not detract from the car manufacturers’ legal obligation to sell you a vehicle that provides you with the transportation you expect.

    Nonetheless the car is still a machine and machines can and do break down. Cars these days are so reliable that it always comes as a big surprise when our trusty mechanical steed fails to hit the road as expected.

    If this unfortunate turn of events happens during the warranty period, the manufacturer is obligated to fix the car in accordance with the terms of your warranty. Not all warranties are created equal and each company strives to provide the most appealing services to entice the consumer to buy their car.

    Once a warranty has expired the manufacturer is no longer responsible to fix anything that breaks down unless there was a major defect in the design and manufacture of an important part that failed way before its expected shelf life.

    Since our office has recently begun preparing for a couple of class-action lawsuits in nonautomotive areas I decided to extend my research to see if anyone had filed a class-action lawsuit against a major automobile manufacturer for defective parts.

    A class-action lawsuit is a tool whereby an individual may make a claim on behalf of him or herself as well as all other people in the same class. Some examples of current class actions included “all persons who have ingested a certain drug made by a particular manufacturer” and “all persons who have purchased a certain type of flash media from a certain manufacturer”. In these types of cases it often would not be economical for a single person to file a lawsuit against a large corporation as it would be cost prohibitive.

    The government therefore will help fund such a case if the courts accepts the class and the action. The damages and awards to each individual may be small but overall justice is done and people who have suffered minor or major grievances have a way of getting some satisfaction as long as they can prove that they suffered some damage as well as that they are members of a class of other people who have suffered the exact same damage.

    I would have thought that there would be several class-action lawsuits against automobile manufacturers. I was wrong. According to the National Class Action Database, of all the class action lawsuits filed from 2003 to the present, only one was in any way related to a car part and even that one goes back to January of 2003. The web site does not indicate whether or not that lawsuit was ultimately successful. With the hundreds of thousands of different car parts out there and the millions of vehicles on the road this truly goes to show that those modern cars really are extremely reliable even if we baby boomers don’t recognize anything under the hood.

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