Podhurst Orseck Braces for ‘Long Fight’ With Mazda

Posted on February 20, 2020

“Even the most safe and attentive drivers will not be able to avoid the repercussions from this particular defect because it malfunctions through no fault of the driver,” said Lea P. Bucciero of Podhurst Orseck in Miami, who’s teamed with Ricardo M. Martinez-Cid to represent plaintiffs bringing a putative class action lawsuit against Mazda Motor Corp.”

Miami’s Podhurst Orseck is no stranger to litigation against car manufacturers, having led nationwide efforts to sue General Motors Co. over defective ignition switches and The Boeing Co. over its 737 Max 8 jet, now grounded over an alleged design flaw that improperly pushed planes’ noses downward.

Now, partners Lea P. Bucciero and Ricardo M. Martinez-Cid are homing in on Mazda Motor Corp. and Mazda Motor of America Inc. in a putative class action lawsuit that claims defective automatic braking systems in new car models could allegedly endanger more than 35,000 drivers.

New ”Smart City Brake Support” technology in Mazda3 models from 2018 and onward uses front-facing cameras to detect potential hazards, and automatically brakes to avoid crashes. But the complaint claims the cameras overheat, which could incorrectly trigger the brakes.

“A person can be driving along, and this system—which is supposed to be a safety system—can cause the car to either slow down or very quickly brake with no warning to the driver or anyone nearby,” Bucciero said. “Even the most safe and attentive drivers will not be able to avoid the repercussions from this particular defect because it malfunctions through no fault of the driver.”

Mazda has recalled its 2019 and 2020 models, but has yet to respond to the complaint, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida. It did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Meanwhile, plaintiffs allege the alleged defect has occurred in multiple cars, causing some drivers to narrowly avoid crashes and injury. And Martinez-Cid said he suspects some accidents could have gone unreported by drivers unaware of the alleged glitch.

“We don’t want to suggest that technology advances or safety features in automation aren’t helpful,” the attorney said. “It’s just a matter of making sure the manufacturers are very careful in the design, testing and implementation of those features to make sure that their vehicles are safe for the public.”

Named plaintiffs Jason Miyares and Christie A. Vidaillet accuse Mazda of negligent misrepresentation, breach of an implied warranty, unjust enrichment, and violations of Florida’s Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices and Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act. They claim consumers who have reported the problem have received conflicting information about what to do.

There’s a long way to go, in Martinez-Cid’s experience, as litigation against car makers is often hard-fought, complex and teeming with engineering and expert work.

“The manufacturers, not surprisingly, are very aggressive about defending their product, and they’re not always forthcoming about safety concerns,” Martinez-Cid said. “We are always aware that when we take on a manufacturing-defect case against an auto manufacturer that it’s going to be a long fight.”