Federal class action suit alleges faulty clutches in some Mazda vehicles

The lawsuit seeks certification of a class of plaintiffs who have all suffered financial harm because they purchased cars with defective clutch systems.

On April 20, 2016, a group of current and former car owners and lessees from several states filed a class action lawsuit against Mazda alleging faulty clutches in the U.S. District Court in the Northern District of California. A class action suit allows the consolidation into one trial of many claims against a common defendant for similar injury arising from the same circumstances.

Defective consumer product claims such as this one involving automobiles are often appropriate for class action certification because the same harmful product harms many people across the country. Class action lawsuits prevent duplicitous litigation in many different courts, promoting judicial economy. Extensive evidence must only be presented in one proceeding, saving time and money.

In this case, the plaintiffs all experienced premature failure of clutches in certain Mazda models and seek damages for violation of several state and federal consumer protection and express and implied warranty laws. Specifically, the plaintiffs allege that their cars have defective clutch release levers, bearings and pins, known collectively as clutch release assemblies in Mazda 3s from 2010-2015 with 5- or 6-speed manual transmissions. The defect causes early wear to the manual transmission and parts of the clutch system, resulting in serious premature clutch or transmission failure.

According to the complaint, the defect presents a "significant safety risk" because the vehicles suddenly stop working properly, impacting the drivers' ability to accelerate or decelerate, even at high speeds or in dangerous conditions, raising the chance of dangerous accidents.

The complaint alleges that Mazda has known of the defect for almost 10 years, with voluminous customer complaints having been filed with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration or NHTSA and in various places on the Internet. Despite having tried to redesign the clutch system repeatedly, the defendant allegedly does not admit the problem to past or current customers.

When the problem is brought in for repair, Mazda allegedly sometimes blames the failure on wear or user error outside warranty coverage. Repairs are "expensive and extensive," according to the complaint.

These plaintiffs allege that their cars have lost value and that they have suffered financial loss because of Mazda's "unfair, deceptive, and/or fraudulent business practices." They request a jury trial and extensive monetary damages, including punitive damages that are meant to punish and deter others from similar conduct, interest, legal fees and costs as well as appropriate court orders requiring Mazda to take action to remedy the situation such as by repairing, recalling or replacing the defective cars or other actions.

Advocates for consumer safety will watch this trial with interest to see whether the class is certified for trial and what the eventual outcome will be. In the meantime, anyone who has been injured physically or financially by a defective or dangerous product should speak with a personal injury attorney to understand what legal remedies might be available.

The attorneys of Brayton Purcell, L.L.P., with four offices in the western U.S., represent consumers harmed by dangerous products in lawsuits in California and across the country.