Georgia lawsuit over foul smells in Mercedes cars moves forward

In this Jan. 28, 2015 file photo, a Mercedes-Benz AG employee checks a S-Class model at the plant in Sindelfingen, Germany. The S-Class is among the vehicles included in a potential class-action lawsuit against the automaker for climate control systems that emit a foul odor. (AP Photo/Matthias Schrader, File)

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In this Jan. 28, 2015 file photo, a Mercedes-Benz AG employee checks a S-Class model at the plant in Sindelfingen, Germany. The S-Class is among the vehicles included in a potential class-action lawsuit against the automaker for climate control systems that emit a foul odor. (AP Photo/Matthias Schrader, File)

A potential class action lawsuit filed by two Georgians against Mercedes-Benz USA, alleging a number of its luxury models had faulty climate control systems that caused unpleasant smells, will go forward with discovery, a judge has ruled.

Georgia residents Sunil Amin and Trushar Patel sued Mercedes-Benz USA and parent company Daimler AG in an Atlanta federal court last year, saying a design flaw allows mold and mildew to grow in the heating and air-conditioning system. The suit states the problem creates a smell “that permeates the vehicle cabin,” causing the “passenger cabin to be unbearable and thus unusable for the intended purpose.”

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The lawsuit alleges Mercedes offered only temporary fixes to the problems, including replacements of air filters and cleaning the air systems, and made customers pay for the services, even under warranty.

Last week, U.S. District Court Judge Amy Totenberg ruled that most of the plaintiffs’ claims could move forward. The judge denied the claims that relate to design flaws, stating such problems wouldn’t be covered under vehicle warranties, which she said cover issues of “material or workmanship” and not design. Reuters first reported the judge’s ruling.

In a statement, Donna Boland, a spokeswoman for Mercedes, said, “We believe the lawsuit is without merit, and we intend to vigorously defend against it.”

Ketan Patel, a lawyer for the plaintiffs and a distant relative to the client Patel, said allowing the case to go to discovery was the right decision and “we’re confident that discovery will substantiate plaintiffs’ claims.”

The complaint involves 17 cars and sport utility vehicles, some stretching back to the 1999 model year. The vehicles, the lawsuit alleges, all use essentially the same ventilation systems.

The lawsuit alleges Mercedes concealed defects and forced customers to pay for repairs.

Amin, who lives in Atlanta, owns a 2013 C250 coupe, and Trushar Patel bought a 2013 Mercedes E350 sedan.

According to the lawsuit, Mercedes told Amin that the problem was a maintenance issue.

Mercedes USA announced plans to relocate its headquarters to metro Atlanta from New Jersey in 2015. It opened the new campus in Sandy Springs at a ceremony last week. The new facility will ultimately house about 1,000 workers.

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