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Landesman v. General Motors Corp.

OPINION FILED SEPTEMBER 22, 1976.

BEVERLY LANDESMAN, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS REPRESENTATIVE OF A CLASS, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,

v.

GENERAL MOTORS CORPORATION, DEFENDANT-APPELLEE.



APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. DANIEL A. COVELLI, Judge, presiding.

MR. JUSTICE DIERINGER DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

This appeal is taken from an order of the Circuit Court of Cook County sustaining a motion to dismiss a complaint for a class action suit.

The issue presented is whether the complaint alleges proper grounds for a class action under the law in Illinois.

In February of 1972, General Motors Corporation (hereinafter called "defendant") sent form letters to the owners of many of its automobiles. This notification was specifically made applicable to 1968 Chevrolet autos. The substance of this form letter alerted the owner of a "possible safety hazard" existing in the auto. The owner was informed that as a result of fatigue, the rubber portion of an engine mount may separate. When this condition exists rapid acceleration from a stop or from low speeds can result in the following: (1) inability to close the open throttle; (2) loss of the use of the power braking system; (3) interference with the clutch or shift linkage; and (4) overall loss of control of the vehicle.

Defendant suggests, in the letter, to avoid rapid acceleration from low speeds until restraints have been installed by a General Motors dealer. Furthermore, if the resulting condition of loss of control does occur "the driver should turn off the ignition and apply sufficient pressure on the brake pedal to bring the vehicle to a stop."

Defendant's letter, along with urging the owner to take his auto to a General Motors dealer, also included a promise to install restraints on both sides of the engine at no cost to the owner.

On August 14, 1972 Beverly Landesman (hereinafter called "plaintiff" or "named plaintiff") purchased a 1965 Chevrolet V-8 Impala stationwagon from Marvin Long, who was then the second owner of the auto. The original owner of the auto, Luther Watson, purchased the auto in August of 1965 from an unidentified Chevrolet dealer.

In her complaint, plaintiff alleges defective engine mounts exist in all 1965, 1966, 1967, 1968 and 1969 standard size Chevrolet V-8 autos, all 1965 and 1966 V-8 Nova models and certain trucks manufactured by defendant. On making these allegations plaintiff relies on information and belief, and pursuant to unspecified public statements made by representatives of General Motors.

In response to defendant's admissions and warnings plaintiff brought her auto to Joe Jacobs Chevrolet, an authorized Chevrolet dealer in Wilmette, Illinois, for service, and was advised the front engine mounts were defective and should be replaced. Plaintiff ordered replacement of the mounts, for which she was charged $41.30.

On August 30, 1972, plaintiff brought this action on her behalf and on behalf of the class of all owners of General Motors vehicles with defective motor mounts who have paid or will be required to pay for the correction of the defect.

The complaint contained two counts: breach of warranty and strict liability.

Defendant moved to strike and dismiss the complaint as being inadequate as a matter of law.

On February 1, 1974, the trial court granted defendant's motion and dismissed the complaint upon a finding "the allegations set forth in plaintiff's complaint do not constitute grounds for a class action suit under the established laws in Illinois."

Upon said finding the Circuit Court of Cook County ordered the complaint be dismissed. From this order plaintiff has taken this appeal.

There is no statutory law which governs class action in Illinois. Judicial authority controls.

• 1 To maintain an action as a class action in Illinois the proponent must establish the following: (1) there are common dominant and pervasive questions concerning members of the class; (2) there is a class of plaintiffs too numerous to join in a single action; and (3) the named parties adequately represent all members of the class. See Harrison Sheet Steel Co. v. Lyons (1959), 15 Ill.2d 532, 538, 155 N.E.2d 595; Newberry Library v. Board of Education (1944), 387 Ill. 85, 90, 55 N.E.2d 147.

The defendant questions whether the first and third requirements listed above have been satisfied by the ...


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