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Nelson v. Nissan North America, Inc.

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

December 16, 2014

TAMEKA NELSON, et al., individually and on behalf of others similarly situated, Plaintiffs,
v.
NISSAN NORTH AMERICA, INC., et al., Defendants.

CADDELL & CHAPMAN, P.C. By: Michael A. Caddell, Esq., Cynthia B. Chapman, Esq., Cory S. Fein, Esq., Houston, Texas and CHIMICLES & TIKELLIS, LLP By: Joseph G. Sauder, Esq., Matthew D. Schelkopf, Esq., Benjamin F. Johns, Esq., One Haverford Centre Haverford, Pennsylvania, Counsel for Plaintiffs.

SEDGWICK LLP, By: Martin Healy, Esq., E. Paul Cauley, Jr., Esq., S. Vance Witte, Esq., Three Gateway Center, Newark, New Jersey, Counsel for Defendants.

OPINION

JOSEPH E. IRENAS, Senior District Judge.

In this putative class action lawsuit, Plaintiffs assert that they were injured[1] by a design defect common to the 5-speed, automatic transmissions of their Nissan Maxima vehicles, model years 2004 through 2006 (the "Class Vehicles").

Before the Court is NNA's[2] Motion for Summary Judgment on Plaintiff Abdullah's claims.[3] For the reasons stated herein, the Motion will be granted in its entirety.

I.

In January, 2006, Abdullah purchased his 2004 Nissan Maxima from a used car dealer in New Jersey. (Statement of Undisputed Facts ("SUF") ¶ 2) At that time, the car had approximately 37, 000 miles on it. (Id. ¶ 3)

Abdullah drove the car without incident until late 2007, or early 2008, at which point he began having problems with the transmission. (SUF ¶ 6, 9) Specifically, Abdullah started to experience what the parties refer to as "shift shock, " where the car would suddenly "downshift on its own" resulting in a strong jerking of the car. (Id. ¶ 7) Importantly, it is undisputed that this problem first manifested itself in Abdullah's car after it had been driven "more than 60, 000 miles and possibly more than 70, 000 miles." (Id. ¶ 8)

Plaintiffs, relying on expert evidence, assert that the shift shock problem resulted from a design defect with the 2004, 2005, and 2006 Maximas. The specific nature of the asserted defect is not directly relevant to the instant motion. Suffice it to say, Plaintiffs maintain that the absence of a transmission cooling system, combined with the metallic composition of certain transmission parts, caused overheating of the transmission system, which, over time, caused extensive wearing of the relevant parts, leading to the harsh shift problem.[4]

Abdullah first took his car to an independent (nondealership) car repair shop, which was unable to duplicate the problem on a test drive. (SUF ¶ 10, 11)

Later, he "mentioned" the problem to the dealership when he brought his car in for other services, such as an oil change. (SUF ¶ 12)

In September, 2011, still experiencing the harsh shift problem, Abdullah brought his car to a different independent repair shop, which rebuilt/replaced the transmission at a cost of approximately $1, 600.00. (SUF ¶ 13-14)

There is no evidence in the record that Abdullah ever experienced the harsh shift problem again. At the time of Abdullah's deposition in 2013, he still owned his 2004 Maxima and had no plans to sell it. (Id. ¶ 15)

Abdullah's powertrain warranty from NNA extended for 60 months or 60, 000 miles, "whichever comes first, " and covered "any repairs needed to correct defects in materials or workmanship." (Healy Ex. C, NELSON-ABDULLAH000586)[5] The warranty also conspicuously states, "ANY IMPLIED WARRANTY OF MERCHANTABILITY AND FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR ...


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