In Cox v. Kia Motors Am., Inc., 2011 WL 924020 (Ohio App. 2011), the Ohio Court of Appeals followed Ninth Circuit precedent to hold that the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act applies to limited, as well as full, warranties.
Whether the MMWA applies to limited warranties is an issue of first impression in Ohio. But many other state and federal courts have considered the issue and have reached differing conclusions. Kia has cited various decisions in which federal courts have held that the MMWA does not apply to limited warranties.FN7 For example, in Bailey v. Monaco Coach Corp., a federal district court held that “[u]nder the Magnuson-Moss Act, a warrantor must specify whether a written warranty is a full or limited warranty. Only full warranties are required to meet the minimum standards set forth in 15 U.S.C. § 2304. Therefore, because the law relating to limited warranties is not expressly modified, limited warranties, such as Monaco Coach’s, are not governed by Magnuson-Moss but by the Uniform Commercial Code.” ¶ The Coxes, in turn, have cited various cases in which courts have determined that the MMWA governs limited warranties as well as full warranties. FN9 For instance, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has specifically stated that “whether the written warranty is full or limited makes no difference. Although the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act distinguishes between full and limited warranties, it nonetheless refers to each as a written warranty. Likewise, Section 2301(6) defines a ‘written warranty’ without limiting it to either full or limited warranties, and Section 2310(d)(1) does not limit its application to either full or limited warranties.” The Ninth Circuit clarified that while Section 2304 of the MMWA contains the minimum disclosure requirements for full warranties and is clearly applicable only to full warranties, Section 2310(d) of the MMWA provides a private cause of action for violations relating to both full and limited warranties. ¶ As we have already noted, no Ohio courts have directly addressed the issue of whether the MMWA is applicable to limited warranties. But in Iams v. DaimlerChrysler Corporation, the Third Appellate District analyzed the validity of an alleged MMWA violation pertaining to a limited warranty.FN12 The Iams court recognized that, to present a valid claim under the MMWA, a plaintiff must establish the following: “(i) the item at issue was subject to a warranty; (ii) the item did not conform to the warranty; (iii) the seller was given reasonable opportunity to cure any defects; and (iv) the seller failed to cure the defects within a reasonable time or a reasonable number of attempts.” The court held that while the plaintiffs had met three of these requirements, they had failed to establish the second element, that the vehicle was nonconforming. Accordingly, the court determined that no MMWA violation had occurred. Notably, the court did not even consider the threshold issue of whether the MMWA applied to limited warranties. But from the court’s analysis, it can reasonably be inferred that, had the vehicle suffered a nonconformity, the court would have determined that the plaintiff had established a valid claim for a violation of the MWAA in relation to a limited warranty. ¶ Following our review of the MMWA and the relevant case law, we hold that the MMWA is applicable to limited warranties. The language of the MMWA clearly indicates that while only full warranties must comply with the minimum disclosure requirements contained in Section 2304, Title 15, U.S.Code, the act itself applies to both full and limited warranties. Section 2301, Title 15, U.S.Code defines a written warranty as “any written affirmation of fact or written promise made in connection with the sale of a consumer product * * *.” This definition includes any written affirmation without distinguishing between a full or a limited warranty. ¶ . . . It is common knowledge that most warranties issued are limited rather than full. If the MMWA only applied to full warranties, the act would be quite limited in its applicability. Equally supportive of our determination is the actual language that Kia itself included in the specific warranty issued in this case. The warranty provides that “[y]ou must use the BBB AUTO LINE prior to seeking remedies available to you through a court action pursuant to the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act.” It is somewhat disingenuous for Kia to argue that the MMWA is inapplicable to limited warranties, when the limited warranty issued by Kia in this case specifically states that it is subject to remedies available under the MMWA.