Four bikers can move forward with a class action that claims Harley Davidson manufactured defective motorcycles that burn drivers' legs, a federal judge ruled.
Phillip Johnson, Jimmy Aldridge, Randy Vandermolen and Matthew Weyuker alleged that since 1999, Twin Cam engines in Harley motorcycles were prone to overheating and caused burn injuries to their legs. Transmissions on models manufactured since 2006 also came with defective speed transmissions, the bikers claimed.
Harley Davidson asked the Eastern District of California court to throw out the claims under state law.
But while U.S. District Judge John Mendez granted the motion to dismiss in part, he sided with the bikers on their claims for fraudulent and unfair business practices, violations of Consumers Legal Remedies Act (CLRA), and unjust enrichment.
"Plaintiffs sufficiently allege that the engine defect is material because a reasonable consumer would change his behavior if he knew that the engine heat can cause burns and that the transmission would require numerous repairs or replacements," Mendez wrote.
"Plaintiffs claim that defendant knew of the excessive engine heat defect as early as 1999 and of the transmission defect as early as 2006," the July 21 decision states. "Plaintiffs discovered the excessive heat and transmission defects after purchasing the motorcycles. Since defendant was in a superior position to know of its defective engines, plaintiffs properly allege that defendant had exclusive knowledge of material facts not known to plaintiffs."
Mendez directed the plaintiffs to amend their complaint to "provide more specificity concerning when they discovered the purported defects" because it was "unclear" whether or not the claims were time-barred.
The judge also granted Harley Davidson's motion to dismiss on unlawful business practices with leave to amend.
The plaintiffs' attorney, Lyle Cook of Kershaw, Cutter and Ratinoff, applauded the "victory" for his clients.
"Harley Davidson was trying to say that the claims under California law hadn't been properly pled but the court disagreed with the main thrust of their motion," Cook told Courthouse News.
"With respect to the remainder of the court's order, we intend to amend the complaint consistent with the court's direction," he added.