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Mar 23, 2016

Missouri Court of Appeals reverses trial court, ruling in favor of Baker Sterchi's automotive client, and ordering judgment notwithstanding verdict

In a class action brought by plaintiffs in Missouri state court, alleging certain vehicles had defective dashboards, and that our automotive client misrepresented the vehicles to consumers, the Circuit Court of Jackson County originally certified a Missouri class, for claims under the Missouri Merchandising Practices Act and breach of express warranty and implied warranty.  The Missouri Court of Appeals then struck the certification for warranty claims, but allowed the class to go forward with MMPA claims, carefully describing the types of proof plaintiffs would have to produce, in order to succeed in proving their claims on a class-wide basis.  The case went to trial, nearly four years later, in one of the first MMPA class action lawsuits ever to proceed to trial in Missouri.

At trial, plaintiffs were allowed to adduce proof, over our client’s objection, that statements in advertisements and brochures touting the vehicles as “premium” and “luxury” vehicles (and the like), were actionable misrepresentations.  The jury, in a 10-2 verdict, ruled in plaintiffs’ favor.  Several points were raised on appeal, including that the alleged “misrepresentations” were nothing more than non-actionable puffery, and that plaintiffs had not made a submissible case on whether class members had suffered an “ascertainable loss”, as required by the MMPA.

In a decision issued on March 22, 2016, the Court of Appeals, Western Division, unanimously held that “The alleged misrepresentations of facts made by…were not actionable statements of fact under the MMPA.”  The  Court, therefore, reversed the circuit court's judgment and remanded the case for the circuit court to enter a judgment in favor of our client notwithstanding the verdict.

Baker Sterchi worked with the client’s national counsel, Jenner & Block, LLP, on this case.