Court of Appeal declines to extend Lebrilla "crash parts" holding to all non-OEM parts installed under insurance policy

Lebrilla v. Farmers Group, Inc., 119 Cal. App. 4th 1070 (2004) reversed a trial court's denial of certification in a suit against an automobile insurer.  The suit alleged that sheet metal parts known as "crash parts" were used to effectuate accident repairs, but the "crash parts" were not manufactured by original equipment manufacturers.  The use of "crash parts" allegedly resulted in substandard repairs that did not restore damaged vehicles to pre-loss condition.  In Ortega v. Topa Insurance Company (May 24, 2012), the Court of Appeal (Second Appellate District, Division Three) examined a similar, but not identical situation, in which non-OEM parts were used to complete repairs to vehicles.  The trial court concluded that common issues could not predominate when evaluation of a breach of contract claim would require a comparison of each installed non-OEM part to the OEM equivalent to determine whether the repair part was inferior to the OEM part.

The Court of Appeal agreed:

We do not read Lebrilla v. Farmers Group, Inc., supra, 119 Cal.App.4th 1070, to suggest, for example, that all non-OEM replacement parts are uniformly inferior. That case addressed crash parts. (Id. at p. 1073 & fn. 1.) In this case, to recover damages each member of the putative Steered Claimant Class (Class B) must identify the non-OEM part, which includes radiators and heat and cooling systems, among others, and prove the particular manufacturer's part is inferior. Thus, unlike Lebrilla, the court would have to determine whether the installed repair part is inferior. As alleged, common issues do not predominate.

Slip op., at 18.  Pretty straightforward analysis.  When the issue was the adequacy of "crash parts," the question of their adequacy could be resolved on a classwide basis.  Here, the the issue of adequacy could vary wildly, depending upon what part was replaced and what manufacturer supplied the replacement part.  This particular case provides an example of the relatively narrow category of class complaints that reveal predominance issues on the face of the complaint itself.