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Click here for the full text of this decision FACTS:Bill L. Inman, David Castro and John Wilkins, three Nueces County residents, bought Dodge vehicles manufactured by DaimlerChrysler Corp., equipped with Gen-3 seatbelt buckles respectively, a new 1997 Dodge Caravan, a new 1995 Dodge Ram 1500 and a used 1999 Dodge Intrepid. Castro and Wilkins testified that they had never experienced any problems with the buckles and had never heard of anyone who had. Wilkins had been in one accident, and the seatbelt worked properly. Inman testified that his seatbelt might have released twice when it should not have, but he was “not a hundred percent sure of this because [he] didn’t pay any attention at the time.” The first time, he did not know how he hit the release button, but “all at once” his seatbelt was loose. The second time, he said, he thought he bumped the button while trying to replace the lid on a cooler sitting between the seats of his van. He was not hurt or endangered either time, and he did not know of anyone who was ever harmed because of a Gen-3 buckle. In June 2000, Inman sued DaimlerChrysler in the county court-at-law in Nueces County, alleging that the Gen-3 buckles were defective. Castro and Wilkins joined as plaintiffs in January 2002. In depositions, the plaintiffs explained why they decided to sue even though they had never been hurt by their seatbelts. Inman testified that he had run into his lawyer on the street, who told him “there could be a problem with the seatbelt” and “some way or another [they] got around to sort of discussing a lawsuit.” According to Castro’s testimony, he became involved in the suit after hearing that the seatbelts in his Dodge truck were defective from his cousin, an investigator working for the firm representing Inman. Wilkins testified that he was informed by a friend who worked for the same firm that there was litigation over whether the Gen-3 buckle was defective. And so the three decided to sue on behalf of 10 million vehicle owners and lessees across the nation. In their seventh amended petition, the plaintiffs alleged that the Gen-3 buckle was “dangerously subject to accidental release, far more dangerous than other buckle designs,” that it was “subject to release at any time, and especially in the event of a collision” and that the buckle “design does not minimize the possibility of accidental release.” The plaintiffs did not contend that the buckle would release by itself; it needed to be pressed. They contended only that it is too easy for the button to be pressed inadvertently, either by the wearer or something else in the vehicle. The plaintiffs alleged negligence, negligent misrepresentation, breach of express warranty that the vehicles are safe and meet all safety requirements, breach of the implied warranties of merchantability and fitness for a particular purpose, and violations of the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act. They did not contend that the Gen-3 buckles made their vehicles worth less than they paid for them, and they expressly did not seek damages for personal injury, property damage or death. They claimed damages only for the cost of replacing the buckles with ones that are harder to unlatch, which they “believe[] to be not in excess of $75 per buckle,” and any lost use while repairs are made, “believed not to exceed $500.00 per vehicle.” Thus, if we assume four seatbelts per vehicle, plaintiffs claim no more than $2,400 for themselves and no more than $8 billion for the class. DaimlerChrysler moved for summary judgment on the ground that the plaintiffs’ pleadings failed to state a viable cause of action. The trial court denied DaimlerChrysler’s motion. In certifying the class, the court found: “Plaintiffs’ claims are not based on any hypothetical defect in the Gen-3 buckle that may, or may not, manifest itself in the future. Instead, Plaintiffs’ allege that the sale of Gen-3 buckles breached warranties and consumer remedies because each buckle was sold in violation of federal standards, industry standards, and Defendant’s internal standards and that each Gen-3 buckle has manifested this breach from the moment it was sold until the present.” The trial court certified two classes, one for U.S. residents with new cars, another for U.S. residents with used cars. On appeal, DaimlerChrysler argued that the case should be dismissed, because the plaintiffs had not sustained any legally cognizable injury and therefore lacked standing to assert their claims. Alternatively, DaimlerChrysler argued that the class should be decertified, because the trial plan adopted by the trial court was flawed and incomplete, the plaintiffs were inadequate class representatives, and they had not satisfied the predominance, superiority, and manageability requirements for class certification contained in Rule 42(b)(3) of the Texas Rules of Civil Procedure. The Texas Supreme Court granted DaimlerChrysler’s petition for review to consider its argument that the plaintiffs lack standing to assert their claims. HOLDING:Reversed and dismissed for lack of jurisdiction. A person who buys a defective product, the court stated, can sue for economic damages, but the law is not well developed on the degree to which the defect must actually manifest itself before it is actionable. For example, the court noted that in its 2004 decision Compaq Computer Corp. v. Lapray, it observed that “the law in most states (including Texas) is unclear” on “whether to permit express warranty claims for unmanifested defects.” To have standing to sue, the court stated, a plaintiff must be personally aggrieved. An alleged injury must be concrete and particularized, actual or imminent and not hypothetical. A plaintiff does not lack standing, the court stated, simply because he cannot prevail on the merits of his claim; he lacks standing because his claim of injury is too slight for a court to afford redress. Any possibility of injury to the seat-belt plaintiffs, the court stated, was even more remote than it was in similar cases where the court nonetheless found standing. DaimlerChrysler, the court noted, received only 50 complaints about the seat belts from 10 million vehicle owners and lessees over 10 years � five per year, one for every 200,000 owners and lessees. The plaintiffs also contended that tests showed how easily the Gen-3 buckle release button could be pressed and that crash tests showed that the buckle could somehow be unlatched. But the court found nothing to indicate that the design of the buckle failed to minimize the risk of accidental release versus the risk of non-use so as to pose any concrete threat of injury to the plaintiffs. If the named plaintiffs in a putative class action do not have standing to assert their own individual claims, the entire action must be dismissed. The court then reversed the judgment of the 13th Court of Appeals and dismissed the action. OPINION:Hecht, J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which Wainwright, Brister, Medina and Willett, JJ., joined. DISSENT:Jefferson, C.J., joined by O’Neill, Green and Johnson, JJ., dissenting. “[T]he Court agrees [with DaimlerChrysler that the plaintiffs lacked standing] and, in doing so, improperly equates standing with the merits of the plaintiffs’ claim. Because this contravenes fundamental tenets of the standing doctrine, our rules of procedure, and the statute governing interlocutory appeals, I respectfully dissent. . . . The Court’s opinion reveals a visceral distaste for class actions . . . but that distaste should not upend our substantive law of standing and subject matter jurisdiction which, even more than the right of trial by jury, is fundamental to our system of justice.”

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