The Ninth Circuit recently vacated a district court order certifying a class in litigation against American Honda Motor Co. See Bonlender v. American Honda Motor Co., 2008 WL 2873264 (9th Cir., 7/22/08). The named plaintiffs alleged that certain models of the Honda CR-V and Element were prone to under-hood oil-fed fires, despite a low incidence of such fires.

The plaintiffs had filed four putative statewide class actions, which were among the cases consolidated for pretrial purposes in a multidistrict litigation. In re American Honda Motor Co. Oil Filter Products Liability Litigation (C.D. Cal., No. 2:06-ml-01737).

Honda appealed the district court’s order apparently certifying a nationwide class. The Ninth Circuit agreed that the district court abused its discretion by sua sponte certifying a nationwide class without making any findings regarding Rule 23’s requirements for class certification, including 23(b)(3)’s requirement that common issues predominate over individualized ones.

Among other things, the district court failed to analyze whether variations in applicable state law defeated Rule 23(b)(3)’s predominance requirement. MassTortDefense has posted on the impact of choice of law issues on nationwide classes here and here.

The court further ordered that the case be reassigned to a different district court judge on remand.