Canada: La Cour Supérieure Rejette Un Recours Collectif Sur Le Fond

I.Introduction

Dans l'affaire Fortin c. Mazda Canada inc., 2014 QCCS 2617, la Cour supérieure du Québec a rejeté un recours collectif sur le fond (https://www.canlii.org/fr/qc/qccs/doc/2014/2014qccs2617/2014qccs2617.pdf).

Le recours collectif recherchait une diminution de prix, des dommages-intérêts et des dommages punitifs en raison d'un système de verrouillage prétendument inadéquat des véhicules de marque et modèle Mazda 3 pour les années 2004 à 2007. Selon les allégations de la demanderesse, il était possible d'ouvrir par effraction une porte verrouillée à l'aide d'une simple pression ou d'un coup de pied ou de poing au-dessus de la poignée de la portière avant, côté conducteur.

Selon la demanderesse, il s'agissait d'un vice de conception en vertu de la Loi sur la protection du consommateur (« LPC »). De plus, le fait que Mazda avait fait la promotion du véhicule visé comme faisant preuve d'un haut degré de qualité et d'une conception dynamique et puissante constituait soit une publicité trompeuse soit une omission de divulguer un fait important ( encore une fois en vertu de la LPC).

Le 3 juin 2010, la Cour avait autorisé l'exercice du recours collectif, et ce, pour le compte de deux groupes : i) les locataires, crédit-preneurs ou propriétaires d'une Mazda 3 qui ont été victimes d'un vol ou d'une attaque; ii) les locataires, crédit-preneurs ou propriétaires d'une Mazda 3 sur laquelle a été installé après la prise de possession du véhicule, un renforcement du dispositif de verrouillage.

II.Vices cachés

Dans sa décision, la Cour souligne que « la seule présence d'un défaut, sans la manifestation d'un déficit d'usage ou d'inconvénients majeurs, ne suffit pas pour donner ouverture à la garantie » (contre les vices cachés).

Or, la preuve ainsi que les expertises étaient à l'effet que le système de verrouillage de la Mazda 3, bien que pas optimal à certains égards, respectait la seule norme qui s'applique au fonctionnement d'un tel système. Outre cette norme légale, il n'existait aucune autre bonne pratique dans l'industrie et aucun standard de performance applicable de sorte que « la simple allégation que le système de verrouillage est défaillant (apparaissait) guère convaincante » (par. 104).

Au paragraphe 106 de ses motifs, la Cour ajoute ceci :

« [106] Certes, il semble bien que le système de verrouillage de la portière des véhicules Mazda 3 des années 2004 à 2007 ne soit pas le plus performant parmi ceux installés sur les véhicules de cette catégorie à l'époque, mais il ne déroge à aucune norme ni à aucun standard dans l'industrie automobile, de sorte que ce n'est pas sous cet aspect que la demanderesse trouvera un fondement susceptible d'engendrer la responsabilité de Mazda. »

III. Campagne volontaire de satisfaction

Quant au programme gratuit mis sur pied par la défenderesse afin de doter la Mazda 3 d'un renforcement du mécanisme de verrouillage, la Cour rejette la prétention que ce geste puisse être une admission de responsabilité de la part du fabricant :

« [111] La défenderesse souligne pour sa part que le programme SSP-75 n'est pas un rappel, mais plutôt une campagne volontaire de satisfaction de la clientèle visant à améliorer la performance du mécanisme de verrouillage de la portière en raison d'un problème lié à la criminalité.

[112] Un rappel est en effet une mesure requise en vertu de la Loi sur la sécurité automobile afin de corriger un défaut de conception, de fabrication ou de fonctionnement susceptible de porter atteinte à la sécurité humaine :

Avis de défaut

10. (1) L'entreprise qui fabrique, vend ou importe des matériels d'une catégorie régie par des normes et qui constate un défaut de conception, de fabrication ou de fonctionnement susceptible de porter atteinte à la sécurité humaine doit en donner avis, dans les meilleurs délais possibles et selon les modalités réglementaires, au ministre, à toute personne qui a reçu d'elle les matériels et à leur propriétaire actuel. [...]

(Soulignement ajouté)

[113] Or, cette campagne de satisfaction de la clientèle SSP-75 mise en place par Mazda n'avait manifestement rien à voir avec un défaut de conception susceptible de porter atteinte à la sécurité humaine.

(...)

[115] De la même façon, nous sommes d'avis que la mise en place du programme de satisfaction SSP-75 ne saurait être considérée comme un aveu par Mazda de l'existence d'un vice de conception du système de verrouillage de la portière des véhicules Mazda des années 2004 à 2007.

[116] Il s'agit uniquement d'un programme de satisfaction de la clientèle initié par Mazda afin d'installer un renfort dans la portière des véhicules pour contrer les agissements de criminels exploitant la découverte d'une faiblesse du mécanisme de verrouillage pour s'y introduire par effraction. »

La Cour rejette également la prémisse selon laquelle les membres du deuxième groupe pouvaient se faire indemniser pour les troubles, ennuis et inconvénients qu'ils auraient subis uniquement en lien avec leur déplacement chez un concessionnaire afin de faire installer une pièce de renfort. Reprenant un texte de doctrine, la Cour note que « le droit québécois devrait distinguer les désagréments, les contrariétés, le stress, les craintes et les autres états psychologiques passagers du réel préjudice susceptible d'engager la responsabilité civile de celui qui les occasionne » (par. 149).

Enfin, les représentations faites par Mazda quant à la qualité de ses véhicules étaient exactes et, de toute façon, trop générales pour fonder un recours pour publicité fausse ou trompeuse.

IV.Enseignements de la Cour

Il s'ensuit ainsi que :

  • Bien qu'il ne soit pas particulièrement difficile de faire autoriser un recours collectif en vertu de la LPC, cela ne veut pas dire qu'il sera forcément accueilli sur le fond. Comme dans le cadre de tout autre procès, le demandeur doit prouver chacune de ses prétentions selon la balance des probabilités.
  • Il n'est pas suffisant, pour établir l'existence d'un vice caché, de démontrer qu'un produit n'est pas haut de gamme ou même qu'il est de qualité inférieure. Il incombe plutôt au demandeur de prouver que le défendeur a clairement enfreint les normes, standards ou bonnes pratiques applicables. L'industrie en cause et le contexte particulier des parties seront donc des considérations pertinentes.
  • Une campagne de satisfaction (s'il s'agit effectivement de ça) n'est pas assimilable à un rappel. Un fabricant peut agir dans le meilleur intérêt des consommateurs sans pour autant faire un aveu judiciaire.
  • Dans le cadre d'une campagne de satisfaction, les désagréments, les contrariétés, le stress, les craintes et les autres états psychologiques passagers du consommateur ne sont pas susceptibles d'engager la responsabilité civile de celui qui les occasionne.

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