NOT FOR PUBLICATION
Plaintiffs-Appellants Jessica and Jacob Beaty ("the Beatys") appeal from the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of Defendant-Appellee Ford Motor Company ("Ford").
Ford started manufacturing cars with panoramic sunroofs ("PSRs") in 2007, and soon after began receiving complaints from customers who alleged that their PSRs exploded without warning. Ford later added PSRs to the Ford Escape model line. In 2017, Jessica Beaty was driving her 2013 Ford Escape when the sunroof suddenly shattered for no apparent reason, causing glass to fall on Jessica and her infant daughter. After the incident, the Beatys filed a putative class action complaint against Ford, asserting claims for fraudulent concealment under Washington common law and violations of the Washington Consumer Protection Act ("CPA"), Wash. Rev. Code § 19.86.010 et seq. On appeal, the Beatys challenge the district court's determinations that a reasonable factfinder could not conclude: (1) that Ford knew about the risk that its PSRs could spontaneously explode on the 2013 Ford Escape, the first Escape model to include a PSR option; and (2) that the tendency of Ford PSRs to spontaneously explode is not a material defect.
We review a district court's grant of summary judgment de novo. Badgley v. United States, 957 F.3d 969, 974 (9th Cir. 2020). We must determine, "viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the non-movant, [whether] there is no genuine issue of material fact," and whether the district court applied the relevant substantive law. See Frudden v. Pilling, 877 F.3d 821, 828 (9th Cir. 2017). Because this is a diversity case, we "approximate state law as closely as possible in order to make sure that the vindication of the state right is without discrimination because of the federal forum." Kwan v. SanMedica Int'l, 854 F.3d 1088, 1093 (9th Cir. 2017) (citation omitted). We are "solely guided by" state law as we believe Washington's highest court would apply it. K F Dairies, Inc. & Affiliates v. Fireman's Fund Ins. Co. (In re K F Dairies, Inc. & Affiliates), 224 F.3d 922, 924 (9th Cir. 2000). We have jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1291. We reverse and remand.
1. We conclude that there is a triable issue of material fact regarding whether Ford knew about the risk that PSRs in its 2013 Ford Escape model would spontaneously shatter.
Ford next contends that even if customer complaints can be enough for a rational juror to find knowledge, the Beatys' claims fail because the complaints involved PSRs on a different model of car. We disagree. "[W]hen a plaintiff attempts to introduce evidence of other accidents" to prove the defendant's "notice of [a] defect," "[a] showing of substantial similarity is required." Cooper v. Firestone Tire & Rubber Co., 945 F.2d 1103, 1105 (9th Cir. 1991). Because the purpose of the "substantial similarity" inquiry is to determine relevance in the context of a defective product,
Here, the Beatys presented evidence based on customer complaints that PSRs in Ford-manufactured cars were prone to shatter for no apparent reason—the specific defect at issue. The Beatys' expert in glass failure analysis opined that this defect exists in all Ford PSRs because they are built the same way by the same two manufacturers, and thus share five "common, defective design features, including their size, thickness, curvature, connection to the vehicles' unibody frames, and use of ceramic paint or frit."
2. We also conclude that a reasonable juror could find that the risk of a spontaneously shattering PSR is material to consumers under Washington law. Materiality is an element of both of the Beatys' claims. A claim under the CPA involves an "unfair or deceptive act or practice"; "[i]mplicit in the definition of `deceptive' under the CPA is the understanding that the practice misleads or misrepresents something of material importance." Nguyen v. Doak Homes, Inc., 167 P.3d 1162, 1166 (Wash. Ct. App. 2007) (alteration in original) (citation omitted). Similarly, a party engages in fraud "if it conceals a material fact from the other party." Wash. Mut. Sav. Bank v. Hedreen, 886 P.2d 1121, 1123 (Wash. 1994) (en banc). A material fact is one "to which a reasonable person would attach importance in determining his or her choice of action in the transaction in question." Aspelund v. Olerich, 784 P.2d 179, 183 (Wash. Ct. App. 1990).
Rather than focusing on what Washington consumer-protection law requires, the district court applied a standard of materiality applicable to NHTSA, a government body. Even if, as Ford contends, the district court did not hold that the Beatys had to "formally satisfy any federal governmental standard," the district court's language suggests that it viewed its materiality analysis in those terms. The district court cited United States v. General Motors Corp., 656 F.Supp. 1555, 1579 (D.D.C. 1987), a district court order interpreting standards applicable to NHTSA, and then stated: "[V]iewed in the NHTSA's `severity, frequency, and consequences' context . . . the Court cannot conclude that the defect at issue here was material, if it was a defect at all."
The NHTSA materiality standard as articulated in General Motors is inconsistent with Washington consumer-protection law. First, Washington law does not require a risk to safety, much less an "unreasonable" one. The district court erred by couching its materiality analysis in whether the risk of shattering is an "unreasonable . . . safety risk" under the NHTSA standards. In Griffith, a Washington appeals court explained that "[t]he purposes of the CPA—to protect members of the public from injury in their property or business by reason of unfair or deceptive acts and practices in trade or commerce—would hardly be served if deception were not actionable unless the consumers' very lives were at stake." 969 P.2d at 493. Second, unlike the brakes at issue in General Motors, a consumer does not need a panoramic sunroof to operate a car—it is a luxury accessory for which consumers pay a premium of between one thousand and several thousand dollars. So whether a consumer would consider PSR explosions to be a material fact—i.e., any fact "to which a reasonable person would attach importance," see Aspelund, 784 P.2d at 183—should be seen through this lens. By failing to analyze the Beatys' materiality claim under the broader standards underlying Washington consumer-protection law, the district court erred as a matter of law.
Finally, even if the district court did not apply an erroneous standard of materiality, there is a triable issue of fact as to whether the PSR shattering issue would be material to a reasonable consumer. Ford makes much of its calculated failure rate of 0.05%,
Other carmakers and NHTSA have also recognized that the distraction caused by an unexpected loud explosion and sudden shower of glass "could distract the driver" and create "the risk of a crash." Though Ford contends that no serious injuries have occurred yet, it is reasonable to assume that a consumer will attach importance to traumatic occurrences that result in "only" near-misses and relatively minor abrasions. In fact, as Jessica Beaty explained, "driving around with something that could randomly occur again" is "stressful" and prevents her from "us[ing] the car as intended." The Beatys have produced sufficient evidence to preclude summary judgment on materiality. See SEC v. Phan, 500 F.3d 895, 908 (9th Cir. 2007) ("Materiality typically cannot be determined as a matter of summary judgment. . . .").