In re ZF-TRW Airbag Control Units Prods. Liab. Litig.

Citation601 F.Supp.3d 625
Decision Date09 February 2022
Docket NumberCase No. LA ML19-02905 JAK (FFMx)
Parties IN RE: ZF-TRW AIRBAG CONTROL UNITS PRODUCTS LIABILITY LITIGATION
CourtUnited States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. Central District of California

601 F.Supp.3d 625

IN RE: ZF-TRW AIRBAG CONTROL UNITS PRODUCTS LIABILITY LITIGATION

Case No. LA ML19-02905 JAK (FFMx)

United States District Court, C.D. California.

Filed February 9, 2022


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Proceedings: (IN CHAMBERS) ORDER RE DEFENDANTS' JOINT MOTION TO DISMISS PURSUANT TO F.R.C.P. 12(b)(6) (DKT. 208); ZF DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO DISMISS (DKT. 209); MITSUBISHI DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO DISMISS (DKT. 212); HONDA DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO DISMISS (DKT. 213); TOYOTA DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO DISMISS (DKT. 214); HYUNDAI-KIA DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO DISMISS (DKT. 219); MOBIS DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO DISMISS (DKT. 220); FCA DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO DISMISS (DKT. 230); STMICRO DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO DISMISS (DKT. 241)

JOHN A. KRONSTADT, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

I. Introduction

On August 8, 2019, this multi-district litigation ("MDL") was established and transferred to this Court. Dkt. 1. The MDL, which encompasses 20 member cases, concerns airbag control units ("ACUs") that are allegedly defective because

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they contain a specific component part that is vulnerable to electrical overstress ("EOS"). The alleged defect ("Alleged Defect") can result in the failure of airbags in a vehicle to deploy during a collision.

On July 27, 2020, ZF Active Safety and Electronics US LLC, ZF Passive Safety Systems US Inc., ZF Automotive Inc., ZF TRW Automotive Holdings Corp., and ZF North America, Inc., ZF Friedrichshafen AG, and ZF Holdings B.V. (collectively, the "ZF Defendants") filed a Motion to Dismiss (the "ZF Motion"). Dkt. 209. Plaintiffs opposed the ZF Motion on September 25, 2020 (Dkt. 283) and the ZF Defendants replied on November 9, 2020 (Dkt. 296).

On July 27, 2020, Mitsubishi Motors North America, Inc. and Mitsubishi Motors Corp. (together, the "Mitsubishi Defendants" or "Mitsubishi") filed a Motion to Dismiss (the "Mitsubishi Motion"). Dkt. 212. Plaintiffs opposed the Mitsubishi Motion on September 25, 2020 (Dkt. 288) and the Mitsubishi Defendants replied on November 9, 2020 (Dkt. 294).

On July 27, 2020, Honda Motor Co., Ltd., American Honda Motor Co., Inc., Honda of America Mfg., Inc., Honda R&D Co., Ltd., and Honda R&D Americas, Inc. ("Honda R&D Americas")1 (collectively, the "Honda Defendants" or "Honda") filed a Motion to Dismiss (the "Honda Motion"). Dkt. 213. Plaintiffs opposed the Honda Motion on September 25, 2020 (Dkt. 287) and the Honda Defendants replied on November 9, 2020 (Dkt. 295).

On July 27, 2020, Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. Inc., Toyota Motor Engineering & Manufacturing North America, Inc., Toyota Motor North America, Inc., and Toyota Motor Corporation ("Toyota Motor Corp.") (collectively, the "Toyota Defendants" or "Toyota") filed a Motion to Dismiss (the "Toyota Motion"). Dkt. 214.2 Plaintiffs opposed the Toyota Motion on September 25, 2020 (Dkt. 289) and the Toyota Defendants replied on November 9, 2020 (Dkt. 297).

On July 27, 2020, Hyundai Motor Company, Ltd., Hyundai Motor America, Inc., Kia Motors Corporation, and Kia Motors America, Inc. (collectively, the "Hyundai-Kia Defendants" or "Hyundai-Kia") filed a Motion to Dismiss (the "Hyundai-Kia Motion"). Dkt. 219. Plaintiffs opposed the Hyundai-Kia Motion on September 25, 2020 (Dkt. 285) and the Hyundai-Kia Defendants replied on November 9, 2020 (Dkt. 303).

On July 27, 2020, Hyundai Mobis Co. Ltd. and Mobis Parts America, LLC (collectively, the "Mobis Defendants" or "Mobis") filed a Motion to Dismiss (the "Mobis Motion"). Dkt. 220. Plaintiffs opposed the Mobis Motion on September 25, 2020 (Dkt. 286) and the Mobis Defendants replied on November 9, 2020 (Dkt. 298).

On August 10, 2020, FCA US LLC and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles N.V. (collectively, the "FCA Defendants" or "FCA") filed a Motion to Dismiss (the "FCA Motion"). Dkt. 230. Plaintiffs opposed the FCA Motion on September 25, 2020 (Dkt. 290) and the FCA Defendants replied on November 9, 2020 (Dkt. 302).

601 F.Supp.3d 684

On August 17, 2020, STMicroelectronics, Inc., STMicroelectronics, N.V., and STMicroelectronics International, N.V. (collectively, the "STMicro Defendants" or "STMicro") filed a Motion to Dismiss (the "STMicro Motion"). Dkt. 241.3 Plaintiffs opposed the STMicro Motion on September 25, 2020 (Dkt. 284) and the STMicro Defendants replied on November 9, 2020 (Dkt. 301).

In addition to their individual motions to dismiss, all Defendants filed a Joint Motion to Dismiss (the "Joint Motion") on July 27, 2020. Dkt. 208. Plaintiffs opposed the Joint Motion on September 25, 2020 (Dkt. 281) and Defendants replied on November 9, 2020 (Dkt. 299). Finally, on August 3, 2021, the Toyota Defendants filed a Notice of Supplemental Authority. Dkt. 362.

All nine motions to dismiss (collectively, the "Motions") -- the Joint Motion, the ZF Motion, the Mitsubishi Motion, the Honda Motion, the Toyota Motion, the Hyundai-Kia Motion, the Mobis Motion, the FCA Motion, and the STMicro Motion -- were heard on January 25, 2021, and were taken under submission.

For the reasons stated in this Order, the Motions are decided as stated in this Order.

II. Background

A. The Parties

There are 66 Plaintiffs, who collectively reside in 29 different states, and who purchased or leased vehicles from the Vehicle Manufacturer Defendants identified below. The purchases were made between February 2009 and March 2019. Consolidated Class Action Complaint ("CAC"), Dkt. 278 ¶¶ 72-138.4

ZF Friedrichshafen AG; ZF Holdings B.V.; and the ZF Defendants (collectively, "ZF" or "ZF TRW") allegedly manufacture and design ACUs. Id. ¶¶ 26-29.

Defendants STMicroelectronics, Inc.; STMicroelectronics N.V.; and STMicroelectronics International N.V. (collectively, "STMicro") allegedly manufacture and sell semiconductors and electronic chips. Id. ¶¶ 37-38.

The following defendants constitute the "Vehicle Manufacturer Defendants," which are alleged to be "companies that make and sell completed vehicles and their affiliates":

1. The Toyota Defendants: Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. Inc., Toyota Motor Engineering & Manufacturing North America, Inc., Toyota Motor North America, Inc., and Toyota Motor Corporation;

2. The Honda Defendants: Honda Motor Co., Ltd.; American Honda Motor Co., Inc.; Honda of America Mfg., Inc.; Honda R&D Co., Inc.; and Honda R&D Americas;

3. The Hyundai-Kia Defendants: Hyundai Motor America, Inc.; Hyundai Motor Co.; Kia Motors Corporation; and Kia Motors America, Inc.;

4. The Mitsubishi Defendants: Mitsubishi Motors Corp. and Mitsubishi Motors North America Inc.; and
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5. The FCA Defendants: FCA US LLC and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles N.V.

Id. ¶¶ 41, 52.

It is alleged that the Mobis Defendants are affiliates of Hyundai-Kia. Id. ¶ 42. Mobis allegedly "manufactures, supplies, and distributes automotive parts to [Hyundai-Kia], including some of the defective ZF TRW ACUs." Id. ¶ 50. Mobis Parts America, LLC, allegedly "imports, supplies, and provides logistical support for automotive parts for Hyundai and Kia-branded vehicles that are either imported into, or manufactured in, the United States." Id. ¶ 51.

B. Putative Classes

Plaintiffs have brought this action on behalf of a putative class (the "Nationwide Class") and subclasses. Dkt. 278 ¶¶ 547-48. The Nationwide Class includes "[a]ll persons in the United States who purchased or leased a Class Vehicle." Id. In addition, "Plaintiffs ... plead state subclasses within the Nationwide Class, each defined based on purchases or leases of the Class Vehicles within each state." Id. ¶ 548.

The Hyundai-Kia Plaintiffs bring this action on behalf of a putative nationwide subclass (the "Hyundai-Kia Class") that is defined as: "All persons in the United States who purchased or leased a Hyundai-Kia Class Vehicle." Id. ¶ 549. Plaintiffs assert that "[s]imilar subclasses exist on a statewide basis for all persons in the United States who purchased or leased a Hyundai-Kia Class Vehicle in each state." Id.

The FCA Plaintiffs bring this action on behalf of a putative nationwide subclass (the "FCA Class") that is defined as: "All persons in the United States who purchased or leased a FCA Class Vehicle." Id. ¶ 550. Plaintiffs assert that "[s]imilar subclasses exist on a statewide basis for all persons in the United States who purchased or leased a FCA Class Vehicle in each state." Id.

The Toyota Plaintiffs bring this action on behalf of a putative nationwide subclass (the "Toyota Class") that is defined as: "All persons in the United States who purchased or leased a Toyota Class Vehicle." Id. ¶ 551. Plaintiffs assert that "[s]imilar subclasses exist on a statewide basis for all persons in the United States who purchased or leased a Toyota Class Vehicle in each state." Id.

The Honda Plaintiffs bring this action on behalf of a putative nationwide subclass (the "Honda Class") that is defined as: "All persons in the United States who purchased or leased a Honda Class Vehicle." Id. ¶ 552. Plaintiffs assert that "[s]imilar subclasses exist on a statewide basis for all persons in the United States who purchased or leased a Honda Class Vehicle in each state." Id.

The Mitsubishi Plaintiffs bring this action on behalf of a putative nationwide subclass (the "Mitsubishi Class") that is defined as: "All persons in the United States who purchased or leased a Mitsubishi Class Vehicle." Id. ¶ 553. Plaintiffs assert that "[s]imilar subclasses exist on a statewide basis for all persons in the United States who purchased or leased a Mitsubishi Class Vehicle in each state." Id.

C. Allegations in the Complaint

ZF allegedly manufactures ACUs for use in motor vehicles, including vehicles made by the Vehicle Manufacturer Defendants. Dkt. 278 ¶¶ 8, 22. ACUs, which are typically installed in the passenger compartment of a vehicle, are connected by electrical wiring to crash sensors located on the front of the vehicle. Id. ¶¶ 8, 271-72. The crash sensors detect activity in the front of the vehicle and send corresponding

601 F.Supp.3d 686

electrical signals to the ACU, which receives and interprets these signals. Id. When certain thresholds are...

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