MONTGOMERY, ALA. (April 23, 2020) – United States District Judge Edward M. Chen of the Northern District of California certified a class action lawsuit filed by Beasley Allen attorneys on behalf of owners and lessees of GM full-sized SUVs and trucks that suffer premature engine failure from excessive oil consumption.

Our clients allege that their GM’s Generation Four Vortec 5300 V-8 engines consume oil in such high volume that they foul spark plugs and aggressively wear internal rotating components from inadequately lubricated metal-on-metal contact. GM’s documents and witnesses confirmed that the excessive oil consumption defect lies in piston rings that wore prematurely and allowed oil to migrate into the combustion chambers and burn away.

The worn rings also allowed excessive combustion gases to pass into the oil pan, where they blended with oil and traveled back the engine’s intake via the engine’s combustion vapor recirculation system. This excessive oil recirculation process fouled spark plugs, weakening the ignition system in some vehicles to the point of engine shutdown. Compounding the problem, the vehicles’ instruments do not warn drivers of falling oil levels until the engines are oil starved to the point of suffering internal damage.

Plaintiffs allege that GM long knew of the oil consumption defect but failed to warn consumers either before or after purchase. In certifying the Plaintiffs’ class, Judge Chen stated, “GM was aware of an oil consumption problem with the Gen IV engines as early as the end of 2008 or early 2009.”

Further, in his rejection of GM’s contention that it repaired owners’ engines with a low-cost engine cleaning procedure, Judge Chen stated, “Despite the fact that GM knew that the [repair] was ineffective by February 2010, it still directed servicers of GM vehicles to complete the procedure as part of the recommended response to oil consumption problems without addressing the root problem.”

Importantly, Judge Chen acknowledged the severity of the defect, stating, “There is evidence upon which a reasonable jury could rely to conclude that the alleged Oil Consumption Defect constitutes a safety defect.” In affirmation of Plaintiffs’ claims that the oil consumption defect is both dangerous and widespread, Judge Chen certified Plaintiffs’ class of more than 830,000 2011-2014 GM pickups and SUVs.

Judge Chen certified class claims for three bellwether Plaintiffs – California, North Carolina and Texas – as the parties agreed at the outset of the litigation to pursue a bellwether Plaintiff model for purposes of efficiency and manageability of the class case.

Clay Barnett, who works in the firm’s Atlanta office and is one of the Plaintiffs’ attorneys, explained, “In an effort to squeeze more power and fuel mileage out of an established GM V-8 platform, GM overcomplicated an otherwise simple design and created an engine that self-destructed typically before the warranty expired.”

“We are pleased that the Court recognized the severity of this serious engine problem and GM’s attempt to cover up the defect,” said Dee Miles, head of the firm’s Consumer Fraud Section. “We’re also pleased that Judge Chen viewed the issues in this case as best suited for class-wide treatment,” Miles added.

The case is Montville Sloan, Jr. et al. v. General Motors LLC, Case 3:16-cv-07244-EMC, and is being handled by Beasley Allen attorneys Dee Miles, Clay Barnett, Leslie Pescia and Mitch Williams, along with attorneys from Dicello Levitt Gutzler in Chicago, Illinois, and Andrus and Anderson in San Francisco, California.

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