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Chicago judge tosses nationwide class action against Kawasaki

November 19, 2012

Rick Mueller
Rick Mueller
Carl Pesce
Carl Pesce
Trey Lawrence
Trey Lawrence

Thompson Coburn recently helped Kawasaki secure a summary judgement motion dismissing a nationwide class action lawsuit over odometers on the company’s Vulcan motorcycles. U.S. District Court Judge William Hart of the Northern District of Illinois granted summary judgment in favor of Kawasaki on Nov. 15.

In the lawsuit, the plaintiffs alleged violations of the Federal Odometer Act, claiming that the odometer on Kawasaki’s Vulcan motorcycles intentionally overstated the actual mileage traveled. In September 2009, the court certified a plaintiffs’ class consisting of all owners of 2005 to 2009 model year Kawasaki Vulcan motorcycles in the United States. The plaintiffs sought actual damages, statutory damages, treble damages, attorneys’ fees, costs and punitive damages. The case was significant because of the claimed applicability of Federal Odometer Act. In recent years, plaintiffs have filed a number of similar types of class actions involving odometers against various vehicle manufacturers.

In granting summary judgment in favor of Kawasaki, the court ruled that the Odometer Act’s anti-tampering provisions were not intended to apply to claims that the odometer was defectively designed. The court found that Kawasaki’s design tolerance for mileage traveled was in line with industry standards. The court rejected the plaintiffs’ argument that the odometers violated the Odometer Act because the odometers could have been (according to plaintiffs) designed to register mileage with a tolerance even closer than the industry standard. The court held that the Odometer Act “was intended to apply to post-manufacture tampering with odometers” and that “[t]here is no sufficient basis to argue that the manufacturing process of an odometer is governed by the Odometer Act.”

The case is Keith Baxter v. Kawasaki Motors Corporation, U.S.A., Kawasaki Heavy Industries, Ltd., and DOES1-3, 1:07-cv-06745.

Kawasaki was represented by partners Rick Mueller and Carl Pesce, and counsel Trey Lawrence, and by Jeffrey Singer and Misty Martin of Segal McCambridge Singer & Mahoney in Chicago.