A California federal judge refused to dismiss a proposed class action against FCA US LLC by Jeep drivers claiming the automaker hid widespread transmission problems, but she ordered the case transferred to New Jersey, where a similar class action has been proposed. Judge Virginia A. Phillips said FCA’s two moves for dismissal of the case – based on claims that the drivers’ allegations were insufficient to support the case and demands for a recall – are now moot because the case was transferred to New Jersey.
Lead Plaintiff Dolores Granillo sued FCA, the successor to the Chrysler Group, in state court in September on behalf of all owners and lessors of 2014 and 2015 Jeep Cherokee vehicles with a newly distributed nine-speed automatic transmission, but the automaker had the case removed soon after, citing more than 100 possible class members.
Granillo claims the transmission has numerous design and manufacturing defects, which started within a few months of purchase and can cause “a host of symptoms including difficulty in shifting, noisy shifting, harsh engagement of gears, sudden acceleration and deceleration, loss of power, premature transmission wear, and transmission failure,” according to allegations in the complaint. Prior to FCA’s launch of the new nine-speed transmission, Granillo claims the technology was “plagued with delays” caused by software glitches, but the automaker went ahead with the release of a transmission that now “operates erratically, causing numerous safety concerns,” Granillo said in her initial complaint.
FCA has said more than 20,000 of the purportedly defective vehicles have been sold and the cost of replacing one transmission starts around $4,000 and can exceed $5,000. With Judge Phillips’ order, Granillo’s case will join that of 2014 Jeep Cherokee driver Stacy Oquendo, who in May filed a proposed class action in New Jersey against FCA over similar transmission issues. Oquendo claims to have encountered numerous transmission problems with her Jeep, which FCA has been unable or unwilling to repair, while concealing the problems and “directing dealers to provide deceptive, false, or misleading explanations” for why repairs are not covered by a warranty.
Both cases are seeking unspecified damages on claims of breach of warranty and violation of the Magnuson-Moss Act, along with individual state consumer protection laws. Granillo is represented by Jordan L. Lurie, Robert Friedl, Terek H. Zohdy and Cody Padgett of Capstone Law APC. The New Jersey case is in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey.