Larry Fain et al v. American Honda Motor Company Inc. et al

AMENDED COMPLAINT against Defendants American Honda Motor Company Inc., Honda Motor Co., Ltd. amending Complaint (Attorney Civil Case Opening), 1, filed by Plaintiffs Larry Fain, Franzetta Cheathon

Central District of California, cacd-2:2019-cv-02945

Current View

Full Text

8 Page ID #:64 1 Eric H. Gibbs (SBN 178658) 2 ehg@classlawgroup.com David Stein (SBN 257465) 3 ds@classlawgroup.com 4 Steven Lopez (SBN 300540) sal@classlawgroup.com 5 GIBBS LAW GROUP LLP 6 505 14th Street, Suite 1110 7 Oakland, California 94612 Telephone: (510) 350-9700 8 Facsimile: (510) 350-9701 9 Attorneys for Plaintiffs 10 11 12 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 13 CENTRAL DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA 14 15 LARRY FAIN and FRANZETTA Case No. 2:19-cv-02945-MWF-PJW 16 CHEATHON, on behalf of themselves and all others similarly AMENDED CLASS ACTION 17 COMPLAINT situated, 18 19 Plaintiffs, v. 20 21 AMERICAN HONDA MOTOR 22 COMPANY, INC. and HONDA MOTOR CO., LTD., 23 24 Defendants. 25 26 27 28 AMENDED CLASS ACTION COMPLAINT CASE NO. 2:19-CV-02945-MWF-PJW 8 Page ID #:65 1 Plaintiffs Larry Fain and Franzetta Cheathon, on behalf of themselves and all 2 others similarly situated, allege the following against Defendants American Honda 3 Motor Company, Inc., and Honda Motor Co., Ltd, (collectively, "Honda"): 4 SUMMARY OF THE CASE 5 1. In the era of increasingly computerized and automized vehicles, a 6 number of automotive manufacturers now equip their vehicles with computerized 7 driver-assisting safety systems. These systems perform a variety of functions, 8 including adaptive cruise control (which operates automatically to maintain a set 9 distance from a vehicle ahead), lane departure warnings and steering inputs, and 10 autonomous braking. The autonomous braking works to avoid front-end collisions 11 by detecting vehicle speed and the speed of other vehicles and objects on the roads— 12 and can automatically deploy the brakes to avoid a front-end collision. 13 2. Honda provides these types of systems through a proprietary driver 14 support suite it calls "Honda Sensing." Honda Sensing relies on a radar sensor (near 15 the lower front bumper), an interior camera (near the rearview mirror), along with 16 computers and other technology. The autonomous braking system within Honda 17 Sensing is called Collision Mitigation Braking System (or CMBS). Computerized 18 driver-assisting safety systems generally, and autonomous braking systems like 19 CMBS in particular, must undergo careful testing and inspection to ensure they 20 work properly. Otherwise, the systems put lives at risk. 21 3. Honda, as one of the first manufacturers to institute an autonomous 22 braking system, has had a number of problems with false alarms—which is where 23 the system brakes abruptly even though there is nothing around that risked a 24 collision. Back in 2015, for instance, Honda issued a safety recall for various 2014- 25 2015 model year vehicles that were having false alarms. Honda issued the recall 26 because these false alarms "could increase the risk of a crash." Other manufacturers 27 have likewise issued safety recalls when their vehicles' automated braking systems 28 deployed because of false alarms. 1 AMENDED CLASS ACTION COMPLAINT CASE NO. 2:19-CV-02945-MWF-PJW 8 Page ID #:66 1 4. Despite its longstanding familiarity with the failures of the Honda 2 Sensing system and the importance of functional driver-assisting safety systems, 3 Honda continues selling and leasing vehicles equipped with Honda Sensing. Drivers 4 have thus reported in droves that their vehicles' Honda Sensing warning lights 5 display without explanation, brakes deploy seemingly randomly and parts of the 6 system like adaptive cruise control malfunction. As a result, drivers are brought to 7 abrupt halts in traffics, trailing vehicles have to slam on the brakes or swerve 8 dangerously out of their lanes, to avoid a crash. According to public records, at least 9 one freeway collision has already occurred, and more are likely absent a quickly- 10 implemented solution. 11 5. Honda remains silent, however, and when asked by drivers and 12 technicians trying to deal with the problem offers no solution, telling drivers and 13 technicians that no repairs are available. 14 6. Honda's conduct has needlessly endangered drivers, unjustly enriched 15 Honda at consumers' expense, and violated consumer protection and warranty laws. 16 On behalf of the classes they propose to represent, Plaintiffs seek awards of damages 17 as well as injunctive and other equitable relief. 18 PARTIES 19 7. Plaintiff Larry Fain is a citizen and resident of Venice, Florida. 20 8. Plaintiff Franzetta Cheathon is a citizen and resident of Rancho 21 Cordova, California. 22 9. Defendant American Honda Motor Company, Inc., is a California 23 corporation with its headquarters and principal place of business in Torrance, 24 California. 25 10. Defendant Honda Motor Co., Ltd., is a Japanese corporation and the 26 parent company of American Honda Motor Company, Inc. The two defendants are 27 referred to collectively in this complaint as "Honda." 28 2 AMENDED CLASS ACTION COMPLAINT CASE NO. 2:19-CV-02945-MWF-PJW 8 Page ID #:67 1 JURISDICTION AND VENUE 2 11. This Court has jurisdiction over this action under the Class Action 3 Fairness Act, 28 U.S.C. § 1332(d). There are at least 100 members in the proposed 4 class, the aggregated claims of the individual class members exceed the sum or value 5 of $5,000,000, exclusive of interest and costs, and this is a class action in which 6 Honda and more than two-thirds of the proposed plaintiff classes are citizens of 7 different states. 8 12. This Court may exercise jurisdiction over Honda because it has located 9 its American headquarters in California; it is registered to conduct business in 10 California; it has sufficient minimum contacts in California; and it intentionally 11 avails itself of the markets within California through the promotion, sale, marketing, 12 and distribution of its vehicles, thus rendering the exercise of jurisdiction by this 13 Court proper and necessary. 14 13. Venue is proper in this District under 28 U.S.C. § 1391 because 15 American Honda Motor Company, Inc., is headquartered in this district, Defendant 16 Honda Motor Co., Ltd., is a foreign entity, and a substantial part of the events or 17 omissions giving rise to Plaintiffs' claims occurred in this District. 18 SUBSTANTIVE ALLEGATIONS 19 Class Vehicles' Honda Sensing systems 20 14. Honda manufactures, markets, and distributes mass-produced 21 automobiles in the United States under the Honda brand name. The Honda 22 automobile models that are the subject of this case are the 2017-2018 Honda CR-V 23 (collectively, the "Class Vehicles"). 24 15. All Class Vehicles come equipped with Honda Sensing, which Honda 25 calls "a driver support system which employs the use of two distinctly different kinds 26 of sensors, a radar sensor located at the lower part of the front bumper and a front 27 sensor camera mounted to the interior side of the windshield, behind the rear view 28 3 AMENDED CLASS ACTION COMPLAINT CASE NO. 2:19-CV-02945-MWF-PJW 8 Page ID #:68 1 mirror."1 The "Honda Sensing" suite and CMBS are major aspects of Honda's 2 marketing of Class Vehicles and help increase the market price of the vehicles. 3 16. Honda Sensing comes with the following functions: 4  Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC) with Low Speed Follow (LSF)*: Helps 5 maintain a constant vehicle speed and a set following interval behind a 6 vehicle detected ahead of yours and, if the detected vehicle comes to a 7 stop, can decelerate and stop your vehicle. *if equipped 8  Lane Keeping Assist System (LKAS): Provides steering input to help keep 9 the vehicle in the middle of a detected lane and provides tactile and visual 10 alerts if the vehicle is detected drifting out of its lane. 11 12  Road Departure Mitigation (RDM) System: Alerts and helps to assist you 13 when the system detects a possibility of your vehicle unintentionally crossing over detected lane markings and/or leaving the roadway 14 altogether. 15 16  Collision Mitigation Braking System (CMBS): Can assist you when there 17 is a possibility of your vehicle colliding with a vehicle or a pedestrian detected in front of yours.2 18 19 17. CMBS is supposed to provide alerts to drivers when a potential collision 20 is detected and, when a collision is deemed unavoidable, the CMBS is supposed to 21 automatically reduce vehicle speed by applying the brakes. The CMBS is capable of 22 providing light brake application or strong brake application. According to Honda, 23 the CMBS activates when: 24 25 26 27 1 http://owners.honda.com/utility/download?path=/static/pdfs/2018/CR- 28 V/2018_CR-V_Collision_Mitigation_Breaking_System.pdf 2 Id. 4 AMENDED CLASS ACTION COMPLAINT CASE NO. 2:19-CV-02945-MWF-PJW 8 Page ID #:69 1  The speed difference between your vehicle and a vehicle or pedestrian detected in front of you is about 3 mph (5 km/h) and over with a chance of a 2 collision. 3  Your vehicle speed is about 62 mph (100 km/h) or less and the system 4 determines there is a chance of a collision with another vehicle or a pedestrian 5 in front of you. 6  You vehicle speed is above 62 mph (100 km/h), and the system determines there is a chance of a collision with a vehicle detected in front of you traveling 7 in your same direction.3 8 18. Honda first recognized the potential market demand for computerized 9 driver-assisting safety systems decades ago. Honda introduced its CMBS in the 10 Japanese market in June 2003, positing that the CMBS could help prevent rear-end 11 collisions. The figure below shows the basic system configuration of the early 12 CMBS—with radar to detect and measure the speed of objects in front of the 13 vehicle; additional sensors to assist in measuring speed; a warning indicator on the 14 dashboard; and an electronic control unit (or "ECU") that controls the autonomous 15 braking system: 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 3 http://techinfo.honda.com/rjanisis/pubs/OM/AH/ATLA1818OM/enu/ATLA1 818OM.PDF at 533. 5 AMENDED CLASS ACTION COMPLAINT CASE NO. 2:19-CV-02945-MWF-PJW 8 Page ID #:70 1 2 19. The Honda Sensing system in Class Vehicles employs a millimeter wave 3 radar unit (on the front of the vehicle near the bumper) as well as a camera (located 4 near the rearview mirror). For CMBS purposes, the radar and camera scan 5 approximately 100 meters ahead of Class Vehicles searching for potential obstacles 6 that could cause a collision. If an obstacle is detected, the CMBS will alert the driver 7 and potentially apply light or strong brakes automatically. 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 6 AMENDED CLASS ACTION COMPLAINT CASE NO. 2:19-CV-02945-MWF-PJW 8 Page ID #:71 1 20. Honda and the rest of the automotive industry have known for years 2 that driver-assisting safety systems, including automatic braking systems, must be 3 calibrated appropriately and vetted with testing and inspection before sale, to ensure 4 that they are functioning properly and to ensure there are no false alarms (where the 5 autonomous braking system activates even though there is no impending risk of a 6 collision). 7 21. The National Transportation Safety Board, for example, released a 8 special investigation report in 2015 analyzing the use of autonomous braking 9 systems. As the report stated, autonomous braking systems are to activate "only in 10 critical situations."4 The report also found that such collision avoidance systems 11 "depend[] heavily on the accuracy and timeliness of detection, which relies on the 12 quality of the installed sensor, camera, or vision algorithm detecting targets." 13 22. Among the potential problems identified in the report was the possibility 14 of false alarms, with "false alarm" defined as "the detection of a conflict when none 15 is present." The report noted that among the limitations of a radar-based system is 16 the reality that there will be "[i]ncreased interference from other sources resulting in 17 more frequent misidentifications (e.g., identifying a bridge as a conflict vehicle)." 18 23. As Honda has long known, Class Vehicles' suite of driver-assisting 19 sa