U.S. District Judge Edward Chen has appointed Beasley Allen attorney W. Daniel “Dee” Miles, III, to the Plaintiffs Steering Committee (PSC) in consolidated litigation regarding Fiat Chrysler emissions fraud. Elizabeth Cabraser was tapped as lead counsel for the multidistrict litigation (MDL), which is consolidated in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. Only 10 firms were selected to work on the MDL.
In January, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) began looking into emissions-control software in more than 100,000 diesel-powered Jeep Grand Cherokees and Dodge Ram pickup trucks, which manufacturer Fiat Chrysler (FCA) failed to disclose to regulators as required by law. The revelation prompted an investigation by the U.S. Justice Department to determine if the software violated the Clean Air Act and defrauded consumers by representing that the automobiles met clean-air standards when they in fact exceed acceptable levels.
Under the Clean Air Act, automakers are required to demonstrate through a certification process that vehicles meet federal emissions standards intended to reduce air pollution. This process involves disclosing and explaining the presence of any “auxiliary emissions control devices” (AECDs), which Fiat Chrysler did not do, according to the EPA.
While the EPA stopped short of calling the software a “cheat device,” the issue is very similar to that faced last year by Volkswagen, in which the auto manufacturer was found to have programmed about 11 million of its diesel vehicles worldwide to recognize laboratory emissions testing and turn emissions controls on. In normal driving, the emissions control was turned off, allowing the vehicles to release up to 40 times the legally allowable limit of carbon monoxide. It is expected to cost Volkswagen more than $14 billion to settle claims with automakers affected by the emissions cheat.
“It has become apparent that many automobile manufacturers are now utilizing software to cheat their way around the Clean Air Act by simply misrepresenting the emissions of nitrogen oxide from their vehicles,” said Miles, who also is one of 22 attorneys appointed by U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer to the PSC for the VW emissions cheat, and now one of only 10 appointed by Judge Chen to the Fiat Chrysler emissions MDL. “These vehicles that produce excessive emissions of nitrogen oxide are not legal, they don’t belong on our roads and the use of computer software to produce phony emissions readings is fraudulent,” he said.
The questionable software was found in model year 2014, 2015, and 2016 Jeep Grand Cherokees and Dodge Ram 1500 trucks with 3.0 liter diesel engines sold in the U.S.
The case is In re Chrysler-Dodge-Jeep EcoDiesel Marketing, Sales Practices and Products Liability, case number 3:17-md-02777, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.