Putting the Brakes on National Class Actions: The Ninth Circuit Substantially Limits The California Supreme Court’s Tobacco II Decision

January 2012

Mazza v. American Honda Motor Company, Inc., No. 09-55376 (9th Cir. Jan. 12, 2012).

The Ninth Circuit has vacated a lower court's decision certifying a nationwide class of drivers who allegedly purchased a special anti-collision braking system based on ads by Honda that overstated the system's benefits. In a divided decision, the majority held that California's rigorous consumer protection statutes cannot govern purchases made in other states. The majority also held that the "presumption of reliance" previously recognized by the California Supreme Court should not apply when some class members may never have seen the ads in dispute, and could not have relied on them when making their purchase decisions.

The named plaintiffs in Mazza v. American Honda were drivers of Acura brand vehicles who paid an extra $4,000 for cars equipped with Honda's anti-collision braking system. According to Honda's advertisements, the system was designed to first warn drivers of an impending collision and then automatically apply the brakes to lessen the impact. Plaintiffs alleged that Honda's ads not only exaggerated the system's capabilities, but also failed to disclose significant limitations such as the fact that the system shuts off in bad weather.

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