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Appeals Court Decertifies Bridgestone Run-Flat Class Action

August 15, 2012
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On Aug. 9, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit decertified a class action lawsuit brought against both Bridgestone Americas and BMW over run-flat tires.

The appellate court decision was counter to a previous ruling by the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey, which had previously certified an “opt-out class action” for “purchasers and lessees” of certain BMWs equipped with Bridgestone run-flat tires that were sold or leased in New Jersey and had run-flats that “have gone flat and been replaced.”

The lead plaintiff in the opt-out class action had no problems with the performance of the tires – the run-flat Bridgestone performed as expected when they went flat. Instead, the man was claiming consumer fraud, breach of warranty and breach of contract claims because he felt the Bridgestone run-flats were “highly susceptible to flats, punctures and bubbles and fail at a significantly higher rate than radial tires or other run-flat tires; cannot be repaired, only replaced, in the event of a small puncture; and are exorbitantly priced,” according to a report.

The appellate court, in its 55-page ruling, vacated the district court's certification order and remanded the case, saying that the man’s case did not qualify as a class-action case on a number of factors, the chief being that the case did not satisfy the numerosity requirement, the court said.

According to Judge Thomas Ambro, a class must be "so numerous that joinder of all members is impracticable."

He continued, “When a plaintiff attempts to certify both a nationwide class and a state-specific subclass…evidence that is sufficient to establish numerosity with respect to the nationwide class is not necessarily sufficient to establish numerosity with respect to the state-specific subclass.”

The court, he said, can only "speculate" on the number of 2006-2009 model year BMWs were purchased or leased in New Jersey, let alone how many came with Bridgestone run-flats that have gone flat and been replaced.

"That information is not in the record," Ambro wrote.

"There is also no evidence of how many of the 740,102 vehicles bought and leased nationwide had Bridgestone RFTs. No evidence shows that BMW purchased tires from its seven RFT-suppliers in roughly equal proportions or even if Bridgestone was among its larger or smaller suppliers."