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Auto-maker had no duty to defend

An auto manufacturer did not have a duty to defend a motor vehicle dealer in a suit brought by a purchaser of a vehicle plagued by alleged “nonconformities,” the Supreme Judicial Court has ruled.

“The issue on appeal is one of statutory construction: under what circumstances does a motor vehicle manufacturer owe a duty under G.L.c. 93B, §8(a), to defend a motor vehicle dealer against a claim ‘predicated upon the negligent design or manufacture of a new motor vehicle, or any part or component thereof,’” Justice Ralph D. Gants wrote for a unanimous court.

“We conclude that a manufacturer owes such a statutory duty where a dealer promptly notifies it in writing that a claim has been asserted alleging damages arising from a defective motor vehicle or part caused solely by the fault or neglect of the manufacturer, and not by any fault or neglect of the dealer,” Gants stated. “Because the plaintiff’s allegations here alleged the fault or neglect of both the manufacturer and the dealer, the manufacturer did not have a duty to defend under §8(a), in the circumstances of this case.”

The 15-page decision is Ferreira v. Chrysler Group LLC, et al.

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