Missouri Supreme Court reverses a jury verdict in a consumer class action case challenging a “luxury” vehicle representation.

October 19, 2017

In Hurst v. Nissan North America, Inc., SC95707 (Mo. Oct. 5, 2017), a  plaintiff class sued Nissan, alleging that it made numerous misrepresentations about its Infinity FX vehicles in violation of the Missouri Merchandising Practices Act (MMPA).  Plaintiffs argued that Nissan affirmatively misrepresented that the vehicles were “premium” or “luxury” cars because the dashboards were defective and prone to deforming.  A  jury  awarded $652,000 in actual damages, and counsel received  $1.9 million in attorneys’ fees.

After opinion by the Court of Appeals, the Missouri Supreme Court transferred the case and reversed. The Court observed that the parties presented interesting and important questions about whether “puffery” is actionable under the MMPA, but concluded that it need not address this issue.  The Court reasoned that even assuming Nissan’s statements were sufficiently factual, the plaintiff class failed to prove that the statements were false.  The evidence at trial proved that the dashboards were sometimes defective but failed to show that they were made with low-end “economy” materials.

Judge Draper dissented without opinion, and Judge Powell did not participate in the case.