CHICAGO — A federal judge has ruled that a couple who were upset over their hybrid Volvo’s ability to hold a charge have legitimate claims against Volvo, turning aside the automaker's attempt to again pull the plug on the couple's class action lawsuit.
In April 2016, Xavier Laurens and Khadija Laurens filed their suit against Volvo Cars of North America LLC and Volvo Car USA LLC, maintaining the twin-engine gas-electric Volvo XC90 T8 they had purchased had not performed as advertised. Specifically, it wouldn’t go the advertised 25-mile range on a full battery charge.
The opinion was issued by U.S. District Judge Harry D. Leinenweber in November in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois. Leinenweber noted he had previously dismissed the case in October 2016, after Volvo filed a motion arguing the case was moot because Volvo had offered to refund the Laurens' purchase price. However, the couple appealed, and the U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals overturned Leinenweber's decision and sent the case back to him for further proceedings.
According to their lawsuit, the Laurens purchased their Volvo after reading it could go about 25 miles on electric battery power alone. They claimed they wanted to purchase the car because of environmental concerns and to save money on gas. After the purchase, however, they found the car could only go eight to 10 miles on a single charge. They returned the car to the dealer so the reason for that mileage discrepancy could be discovered.
“The dealer initially pointed out to them that the 'sticker' on the new Volvo claimed that the T8 had only a 13-mile electric driving range rather than the 25-mile range promised in the advertising material," Leinenweber said in the decision. "The dealer [then] sought to test drive the T8 but was only able to travel 10 miles in electric mode under normal driving conditions. The dealer then tested the T8 by driving at no more than 40 mph, with all safety features and the heat turned off, and was able to achieve a distance of between 14 and 18 miles.”
Based on that, the Laurens brought a four-count putative class action suit for alleged violation of the Illinois Consumer Fraud Act (CFA), common law fraud, breach of express warranty and unjust enrichment.
Volvo argued that a CFA claim can’t stand if the representations are not false. The company claimed that the press release the Laurens’ read spoke of mileage in kilometers, and stated that “vehicle specifications may vary from one country to another and may be altered without prior notification," according to the court decision.
The plaintiffs countered that the defendants were ignoring the advertising materials, and that “all of these marketing materials contain mileage claims that [the] plaintiffs’ Volvo dealer was unable to come close to matching. They also point out that it does not take a genius to convert 40 kilometers to 25 miles,” according to Leinenweber's decision.
Leinenweber dismissed all of the counts of the defendants' motion, except the CFA count against Volvo Cars of North America LLC.
“If, in fact, the T8 could only achieve 8 to 10 miles, as opposed to 25, this could be considered a violation of an express warranty, and the allegation clearly rises above the speculative level,” Leinenweber said in the decision.
The Laurenses were represented in the matter by attorneys with the firm of Siprut P.C., Chicago.
Volvo was defended by the firm of Reed Smith LLP, of Chicago.