Dale v. Daimlerchrysler Corp

Citation204 S.W.3d 151
Decision Date30 June 2006
Docket NumberNo. WD 65288.,WD 65288.
PartiesKevin DALE, individually and on behalf of all others similarly situated, Respondent, v. DAIMLERCHRYSLER CORPORATION, Appellant.
CourtCourt of Appeal of Missouri (US)

Edward D. Robertson, Jr., Mary D. Winter, and Anthony DeWitt, Jefferson City, MO, Gary Tatlow and Christian B. Faiella, Moberly, MO, Vincent L. DiTommaso, Oakbrook Terrace, IL, for respondent.

Ann K. Covington, Peter W. Herzog III, Kathy A. Wisniewski and John W. Rogers, St. Louis, MO, for appellant.

Before EDWIN H. SMITH, C.J., and ELLIS and NEWTON, JJ.

EDWIN H. SMITH, Chief Judge.

Pursuant to Rule 52.08(f)1 and § 512.020(3),2 DaimlerChrysler Corporation appeals from the order of the Circuit Court of Boone County, Missouri, certifying two classes with respect to Counts II and III of the putative class action petition filed by the respondent, Kevin Dale, against the appellant for damages allegedly caused by defective power window regulators on certain Dodge Durangos. Count II, certified pursuant to Rule 52.08, was for a breach of an implied warranty of merchantability, brought pursuant to the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act (MMWA), while Count III, certified pursuant to Rule 52.08 and § 407.025, was for deceptive and unfair practices, brought pursuant to the Missouri Merchandising Practices Act (MMPA).3

The appellant raises six points on appeal. In Points I and VI, it challenges the sufficiency of the record to support the trial court's findings required, by Rule 52.08(b)(3), to maintain a class action lawsuit. In Point I, it claims that the record does not support the trial court's finding, required by Rule 52.08(b)(3), that: "the questions of law or fact common to the members of the class predominate over any questions affecting only individual members." In Point VI, it claims that the record does not support the trial court's finding required, by Rule 52.08(b)(3), that: "a class action is superior to other available methods for the fair and efficient adjudication of the controversy." In Point II, it claims that the trial court erred in certifying Counts II and III for class action because the class definitions impermissibly incorporate findings as to "merit issues." In Points III, IV, and V, it challenges the sufficiency of the record to support the trial court's findings required for class action certification as to three of the four Rule 52.08(a) "prerequisites to a class action." In that regard, Rule 52.08(a) provides that "[o]ne or more members of a class may sue or be sued as representative parties on behalf of all only if" four enumerated prerequisites are satisfied. Point III deals with the prerequisite of Rule 52.08(a)(1), that "the class is so numerous that joinder of all members is impracticable." Point IV deals with the prerequisite of Rule 52.08(a)(3), that "the claims or defenses of the representative parties are typical of the claims or defenses of the class." Point V deals with the prerequisite of Rule 52.08(a)(4), that "the representative parties will fairly and adequately protect the interests of the class."4

We affirm.

Facts

The Dodge Durango was introduced by the appellant as a new model for the 1998 model year, with the first Durangos being sold in September of 1997. On December 3, 1997, the respondent purchased a new 1998 Dodge Durango from Dodge City Motors in Columbia, Missouri. The respondent's Durango came with a written warranty of three years or 36,000 miles. Beginning in 1998, and continuing through 2000, the respondent had problems operating the electric power windows of his Durango. During this two-year period, on eight separate occasions, the respondent presented his Durango to Moberly Motors Company, an authorized DCC dealer, for problems with his electric window power system. Although, Moberly Motors Company performed various repairs on the respondent's Durango, it did not install a Bosch motor in his vehicle. The main component of the electric power window system is the power window regulator. When activated by the power window switch, the power window regulator causes the window to go up and down. The regulator is made up of three parts: a motor, a lift plate, and a cable.

On October 10, 2000, the respondent filed suit against the appellant in the Circuit Court of Boone County. In Count I, he alleged a breach of the express warranty on his Dodge Durango, alleging that the warranty was breached when the appellant failed to repair the defective power windows of his Durango by installing a Bosch motor power window regulator. In Count II, he alleged a violation of the MMWA, alleging that the "actions of DaimlerChrysler in failing to tender the Dodge Durango vehicle to Dale free of defects and refusing and failing to repair or replace the defective Dodge Durango tendered to Dale . . . constitute[d] a breach of the written express warranties covering the vehicle and violate[d] the Warranty Act." In Count III, he alleged a breach of the MMPA, alleging that the conduct of the appellant in "failing to install Bosch Window Regulators in its Durangos constitutes the use or employment of deception, fraud, false pretense, false promise, misrepresentation, unfair practice or the concealment, suppression or omission of any material fact in connection with the sale or advertisement of Dodge Durango vehicles to Dale . . . constitut[ed] violation of the [Act]."

On February 21, 2001, the respondent filed a motion for class certification of all three counts. On October 21, 2004, he amended his motion, requesting class certification for Counts II and III only. The respondent's motion was taken up and heard on March 10, 2005. On March 15, 2005, the trial court certified two classes, one as to Count II and one as to Count III. With respect to Count II for breach of an implied warranty of merchantability, brought pursuant to the MMWA, the court certified a class of:

1. all individuals who purchased a new Dodge Durango in the State of Missouri

2. within the four years prior to the filing of the complaint on 10-10-00

3. who have returned to an authorized DaimlerChrysler dealer for service to failed electric window regulators 4. who have not received Bosch motor window regulators and

5. who still own their Dodge Durango.

With respect to Count III for deceptive and unfair practices, brought pursuant to the MMPA, the court certified a class of:

1. all individuals who purchased a new Dodge Durango

2. within the five years prior to the filing of the complaint on 10-10-00

3. who have returned to an authorized DaimlerChrysler dealer for service to failed electric window regulators

4. who have not received Bosch motor window regulators and

5. who still own their Dodge Durango.

On May 25, 2005, the appellant petitioned this Court, pursuant to Rule 52.08(f) and § 512.020(3), for permission to appeal the trial court's order certifying the two classes. On June 30, 2005, this court sustained the appellant's petition and stayed all trial court proceedings, pending resolution of this appeal.

Standard of Review

In determining our standard of review, a brief discussion of the interplay between Rule 52.08, § 407.025, and Federal Rule 23 is in order.

As to Count II of the respondent's petition for a breach of an implied warranty of merchantability, brought pursuant to the MMWA, the respondent sought and was granted class certification pursuant to Rule 52.08. As to Count III of the respondent's petition for deceptive and unfair practices, brought pursuant to the MMPA, the respondent sought and was granted class certification pursuant to Rule 52.08 and § 407.025, which statute governs class actions under the MMPA. Section 407.025.3 provides, in pertinent part, that "[a]n action may be maintained as a class action in a manner consistent with Rule 23 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and Missouri rule of civil procedure 52.08 to the extent such state rule is not inconsistent with the federal rule." Rule 23 and Rule 52.08 are essentially identical. As such, it is well settled that federal interpretations of Rule 23 are relevant in interpreting Rule 52.08. Craft v. Philip Morris Companies, 190 S.W.3d 368, 376 (Mo.App. 2005); Ralph v. Am. Family Mut. Ins. Co., 809 S.W.2d 173, 174 (Mo.App.1991). Likewise, inasmuch as § 407.025 is essentially identical to Rule 23 and Rule 52.08 and class actions under § 407.025 are, by its express terms, to be maintained consistent therewith, logically, we can also rely on federal interpretations of Rule 23 in interpreting § 407.025. Hence, cases interpreting Rule 23, Rule 52.08, and § 407.025 are essentially interchangeable. And, given this interchangeability between Rule 52.08 and § 407.025, when discussing the issues raised in this case with respect to the class certification of Count III, brought under the MMPA, invoking both Rule 52.08 and § 407.025, any references to Rule 52.08, unless otherwise indicated, will be deemed to also refer to § 407.025.

With respect to our standard of review of the trial court's order granting the respondent's motion for class action certification, the appellant recognizes that the Missouri Supreme Court has held that our review is for an abuse of discretion. See State ex rel. Union Planters Bank, N.A. v. Kendrick, 142 S.W.3d 729, 735 (Mo. banc 2004). However, it contends that pursuant to federal interpretations of Rule 23, where, as here, the trial court's order of class certification is not supported by findings of fact, it is not entitled to the "traditional deference" given such determinations, citing Local Joint Executive Board of Culinary/Bartender Trust Fund v. Las Vegas Sands, Inc.,...

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  • Meyer ex rel. Coplin v. Fluor Corp.
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    ...should err in close cases in favor of certification because the class can be modified as the case progresses. Dale v. DaimlerChrysler Corp., 204 S.W.3d 151, 164 (Mo.App.2006) (citing Daigle v. Shell Oil Co., 133 F.R.D. 600, 602 III. ANALYSIS A. Class Actions Rule 52.08 governs the procedure......
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    ...arbitrary and unreasonable as to shock one's sense of justice and indicate a lack of careful consideration.” Dale v. DaimlerChrysler Corp, 204 S.W.3d 151, 164 (Mo.App. W.D.2006) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). A court abuses its discretion if the class certification is base......
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    ...the superiority analysis is the efficiency of the class action over other available methods of adjudication." Dale v. DaimlerChrysler Corp. , 204 S.W.3d 151, 182 (Mo. App. 2006). The analysis permits consideration of the "improbability that large numbers of class members would possess the i......
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