The plaintiffs in a lawsuit against General Motors and its C7 Corvette Z06 lost two of their claims to a Florida federal judge this week but insist that their most important claim survived.
U.S. District Judge Darrin Gayles on Tuesday eliminated two of the claims – the fraudulent concealment claim citing Florida’s economic loss rule, which limits product liability to those with financial damages, and the unjust enrichment claim because it requires the absence of a contract.
A simple punctuation mark, meanwhile, resulted in the judge keeping the warranty claims section of the lawsuit, at least for now.
In an email to Law360, Steve W. Berman of Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro LLP said the plaintiffs were glad the Florida consumer protection claim had survived, labeling it “the main claim.”
GM had asked Judge Gayles to dismiss the suit because the company says its warranty limits vehicle defect coverage to problems caused by “materials or workmanship.”
The plaintiffs claim, however, that GM is responsible for manufacturing and design flaws, too.
In his ruling this week, Judge Gayles agreed with the plaintiffs for the most part.
“Plaintiffs argue that because there is no comma preceding ‘due to materials or workmanship,’ the phrase modifies the exclusions rather than the defects covered,” the judge wrote. “The court finds sufficient ambiguity in the warranty language to make dismissal of the claims at this stage premature. While there is some support for GM’s proposed interpretation, the warranty provision is not devoid of ambiguity.”
According to a story by Law360, that ambiguity resulted in the judge preserving the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act and breach of express warranty claims in the suit, as well as their Florida Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act claim because he said the drivers had met their burden of pleading which specific marketing materials had misled them about the track readiness of the cars. The judge also said, contrary to GM’s claims, the drivers did not have to prove they relied on the misrepresentations when buying their Z06s.
The suit, filed in June by Michael Vazquez and other named defendants from four states, claims that a design defect in the C7 Z06 causes its 650-horsepower engine to overheat when racing. That makes the car useless for the purpose they allege that GM promoted all along by claiming in public that the Z06 was bred from racing stock.
GM has fired back, though, and claims that the Z06 is indeed not a race car and has limitations like any vehicle. “Its performance, especially at top speeds, also depends heavily on the driver’s skill and attention,” the motion to dismiss argues. “The Z06 owner’s manual gives detailed instructions for track driving. There is no allegation that any of these plaintiffs followed these instructions.”
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