MIAMI, FL, March 04, 2013 /24-7PressRelease/
-- A rash of thefts involving high intensity discharge (HID) headlights throughout South Florida led a group of consumers to fight back against a luxury auto giant that was manufacturing headlight systems that could easily be stolen and profiting handsomely off the sale of replacements. Class-action status was granted to owners of affected Porsche 911, Boxster and Cayman models last fall, allowing four Miami-area owners to proceed on behalf of hundreds of Porsche owners who have had their headlights stolen, many more than once.
The problem with the models included in the class action is the ease with which the headlight module can be removed by a thief. In less than a minute, the high-end headlights could be popped out with a screwdriver, leaving owners and lessees with vehicles that can't lawfully be driven and that cost thousands of dollars to repair.
Porsche was not the only auto manufacturer to be targeted by thieves due to the ease of removing their expensive HID headlights. Nissan also suffered a rash of headlight thefts in its Infiniti and Maxima sedans. Nissan differed from Porsche, however, in its reaction to the stolen headlights. It created a kit to secure the lights to make stealing them much more difficult; it worked with local law enforcement to curb the rise in theft and vandalism to its cars; and it redesigned its headlight system on future models to secure the headlights.
Internal documents demonstrated that Porsche was well aware of the headlight theft problem and considered several options to remedy the vulnerability in their cars. However, Porsche eventually elected to do nothing and falsely informed its customers that nothing could be done. Meanwhile, it continued to profit from the sale of replacement headlights, which its dealers sold for $1,000 to $1,500 a piece on average.
In granting class action status to the theft victims, the court noted that the potential damages suffered by the class could exceed $5 million.
What Is The Basis For The Lawsuit Against Porsche?
The legal claims being brought against Porsche include:
- Unjust enrichment:
Essentially, that Porsche profited from a problem with its design instead of fixing it. Because of the manner in which the headlights were secured to the car, it was indisputably easy to remove them. Rather than take steps to remedy this flaw, Porsche chose instead to do nothing and continue profiting from the sale of replacement parts.
- Unfair or deceptive trade practices:
The Florida Deceptive or Unfair Trade Practices Act (FDUTPA) was enacted to protect consumers from unscrupulous business actions. By failing to fix the headlight design or offer a kit to secure the fixtures as Nissan did, Porsche failed to act as a reasonable car manufacturerer should, and unfairly allowed its customers to bear the burden of a problem that it was partly responsible for creating and should have fixed.
The court, by granting class certification, allowed both claims to proceed against Porsche, although it redefined the classes of owners and lessees included under each. All Florida owners and lessees who had the headlights stolen from their Porsche 911 (models 996 and 997), Boxster (986 and 987) and Cayman vehicles since May 31, 2002, were certified as one class for the unfair business practices claim. For the unjust enrichment claim, the Court broke the class into two subclasses: those who had their headlights stolen and replaced once and those who had their headlights stolen and replaced more than once.
What Is A Class Action?
A class action lawsuit allows one person or several people to sue on behalf of a larger group of people. Pursuing a lawsuit as a class action, like the Porsche defective headlight system case, allows a few representative people to protect the rights of the entire group without the direct involvement of every member.
Essentially, that means that other Porsche owners affected by the stolen headlight problem don't have to come to court for hearings, don't have to meet with attorneys, or really do much at all. In a class action, the class representatives take care of everything for the rest of the class.
If you have been identified as a potential member of the class, it is likely that you will soon receive a claim submission form. You may decide that you do or do not want to be part of the class for whatever reason. That is completely up to you.
How Is A Class Established?
In Florida, there are several requirements for obtaining class action status:
That so many people have been directly affected that it would be difficult to bring them all, individually, into the law suit.
The claims of each member of the class or the defenses to them are similar to the claims of other members.
The claims of each member of the class or the defenses to them are so similar that one person or a few people can adequately assert them on behalf of the whole group.
The people bringing the suit have enough resources to pursue the case on behalf of the other members of the group.
The common questions of law or fact outnumber the differences between individual claims or defenses.
That a class action is better to bring the claims on behalf of the group than many individual lawsuits.
These are just gateway requirements for class certification; an experienced class action lawyer
in your area can work through any remaining issues with you.
What Lies Ahead For Porsche Owners Who May Be A Part Of The Class?
It is unlikely that there will be a quick resolution to this case. Porsche has fought the litigation from the start; the class certification issue was not decided until several years after the original lawsuit was filed. Porsche has already appealed the certification order.
If the class survives the appeal, chances improve that the case will settle, as very few class actions proceed to trial, noted plaintiffs' attorney Doug Eaton. The case is currently on the docket in the Circuit Court of the 11th Judicial Circuit in Miami-Dade County, Florida, and is captioned Peter Diamond, Richard Sharp & Irma Matos, Luis Alayo-Riera v. Porsche Cars North America Inc.
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