New Jersey's highest court resolved long-running class-action litigation in our client's favor with a ruling that validated the company's warranty program and a "fair and exemplary" claims process.

In Little v. Kia Motors America, Inc., the Supreme Court of New Jersey concluded that there was "no basis" to assess class-wide repair damages against Kia.

Ballard Spahr litigators began representing the automaker after a state trial court already had certified the statewide class of plaintiffs alleging brake defects. After a four-week jury trial, a team including Ballard lawyers succeeded in securing a defense verdict on the plaintiff's consumer fraud cause of action and damages claims for class-wide diminution in value of the class vehicles. Addressing the remaining verdict against the company for class-wide breach of warranty and out-of-pocket damages, Ballard lawyers prevailed on a motion to the trial court to decertify the class with respect to damages by establishing that neither the factual proofs, nor plaintiff's expert, proved that the existence of damages were common to the class. The court ordered claims proceedings before a Special Master that concluded, after four years, with an aggregate damages award of less than $50,000.

The state Appellate Division, however, reversed the trial court, ordered the class recertified, and reinstated damages of more than $6 million. On behalf of Kia, we successfully petitioned the state Supreme Court to hear the case. We argued in October 2019 before the high court, which ruled in June 2020 that the plaintiff "presented no basis for a … conclusion … that all members of the class suffered damages." The unanimous opinion validated Kia's argument with respect to the inapplicability of an aggregate damages model to the case, and noted that individual claims had been resolved through warranty coverage as well as a "fair and exemplary"claims process. The Supreme Court reinstated the trial court's judgment on damages.

The case began in 2001 and is considered among the most significant automotive class actions in New Jersey state court.