The class action lawsuit filed against Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) by a proposed class of Jeep owners has survived the automaker’s motion to dismiss. It’s alleged that FCA attempted to downplay the severity of a fuel tank defect and that the owners suffered damages. U.S. District Judge Greg Kays ruled that owners of 1993-2004 Grand Cherokee and 2002-2007 Liberty vehicles showed that allegedly misleading statements made by FCA mitigating the possible dangers posed by the placement of vehicles’ fuel tanks could have factored into the decisions by some consumers to buy the vehicles. The judge also said the owners sufficiently pled that the defect is not a “potential” one and that FCA turned a blind eye to the actual problem. Judge Kays said:
Plaintiff must now bear the cost to bring his vehicle into conformance with FCA’s representations regarding the fuel tank. Because plaintiff sufficiently alleges he did not receive the benefit of the bargain in purchasing his vehicle, FCA’s motion to dismiss on this ground is denied.
FCA did not take proper steps to address the issue of Jeep vehicles having plastic fuel tanks positioned behind the rear axle without proper means to withstand rear impact collisions. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Office of Defects Investigation launched a preliminary evaluation of the alleged problem in August 2010 and concluded in 2013 that the fuel tank issue was a defect that had the ability to lead to fires, injuries and even fatalities in the aftermath of a crash.
Jeep had failed to recall the vehicles to fix this problem. Finally, in June 2013, Jeep launched a recall to improve the strength of the rear structure of the vehicles and install a trailer hitch. The consumers contended that FCA dragged its feet on the recall and only fixed three percent of the approximately 1.5 million vehicles under the program. One claim was made against FCA alleging a violation of the Missouri Merchandising Practices Act. It’s alleged that the automaker made a number of misrepresentations in communications with NHTSA, in press releases and in general statements that hid the actual dangers concerning the placement of the fuel tank in the Jeep vehicles.
The consumers are seeking repayment for the loss in value for their vehicles based on the defect or the cost of repair to bring the vehicles in line with representations by FCA that the vehicles are safe and nondefective. The consumers are represented by Christopher S. Shank, David L. Heinemann and Stephen J. Moore of Shank & Moore LLP. The case is Faltermeier v. FCA US LLC in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri.