Class-action lawsuit filed for truck owners says FCA knowingly sold more than one hundred thousand defective vehicles
A class-action lawsuit filed by owners of Dodge Ram 1500 trucks against Fiat Chrysler (FCA) accuses the automaker of knowingly selling more than one hundred thousand of Dodge trucks with a defect that can cause a vehicle fire, according to attorneys at Hagens Berman.
The lawsuit, filed Aug. 27, 2020, in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan, states that all 2014 - 2019 Dodge Ram 1500 and 1500 Classic trucks equipped with the 3.0L EcoDiesel engine are potentially affected by a "grossly defective" exhaust gas recirculation (EGR) cooler. The suit details harrowing accounts of owners narrowly escaping injury following spontaneous truck fires.
"These EGR coolers are susceptible to thermal fatigue, leading the coolers to crack over time and leak coolant, which can cause combustion within the intake manifold and lead to a vehicle fire," the suit states. The defective EGR cooler can also cause owners to experience sudden loss of power.
Attorneys say that although FCA issued a voluntary recall, finally admitting that the defect places vehicle owners and occupants, as well as those outside the vehicle, at risk of injury and is present in 100 percent of the affected vehicles, FCA has not made a fix readily available, and has also made additional misrepresentations in its recall, compounding the danger.
"Owners of these trucks were already under threat of vehicle fire, and yet FCA added insult to potential injury by leaving Ram 1500 owners with no meaningful recourse," said Steve Berman, managing partner of Hagens Berman and attorney representing the class of vehicle owners. "FCA told 1500 owners no remedy was available, leaving them waiting in the rafters for a fix that never came. In the meantime, FCA placed the burden on truck owners to monitor their coolant levels when the risk of not doing so sufficiently is a potentially deadly vehicle fire."
"FCA then led owners to believe a fix was available, but proceeded to put affected owners back on the road without a fix. FCA failed its customers at every juncture, both by hiding the defect and by botching the recall," Berman added.
Hagens Berman has a history of representing vehicle owners subjected to widespread defects in lawsuits against Fiat Chrysler. The firm also serves as lead counsel in another case against FCA concerning an emissions cheating device in Dodge 1500 EcoDiesel trucks, and also recently filed a suit pertaining to a low oil pressure defect.
Owners Narrowly Escaping Truck Fires
The lawsuit says the response from FCA failed to meet the bare minimum of honesty owed to vehicle owners: "Customers are entitled to FCA’s honesty—if there isn’t a remedy readily available, customers should be told this and be given a meaningful choice regarding what to do with their truck."
Instead, the class action states, that Fiat Chrysler placed its customers in harrowing situations. One of the suit’s named plaintiffs received a call from his local dealership and was told three recall fixes needed to be done on his 2016 Ram 1500 EcoDiesel. He agreed and paid $367.44. Less than two months later, he and his family were traveling and experienced sudden loss of power. The truck’s brakes became soft and unresponsive. After managing to halt the vehicle and park on the side of the highway, the plaintiff then saw smoke. His daughter and dog were quickly rescued from the truck shortly before it became "fully engulfed in flames," the complaint states.
The lawsuit contains images of another plaintiffs’ truck fire, after he narrowly escaped as the entire vehicle was engulfed in flames. Again, FCA’s investigation states there was no manufacturing defect, the lawsuit says.
The vehicle was inspected and FCA concluded that "the information at hand would not permit us to associate the fire with a manufacturing or assembly error." FCA told the plaintiff they "decline any assistance associated with this matter" but "sincerely regret the unfortunate fire," according to the suit.
The lawsuit accuses Fiat Chrysler of committing fraudulent concealment, violating federal warranty laws, as well as state consumer protection laws among other claims. Attorneys are seeking monetary relief for owners of the affected vehicles, as well as punitive damages against the automaker for its fraud.
"In 2015, after other botched recalls that led to penalties from federal agencies, FCA vowed to ‘improve our handling of recalls and re-establish the trust’ of its customers it had lost," Berman said. "Clearly that promise was built upon the same reliability as its vehicles."
Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro LLP is a consumer-rights class-action law firm with nine offices across the country. The firm’s tenacious drive for plaintiffs’ rights has earned it numerous national accolades, awards and titles of "Most Feared Plaintiff’s Firm," and MVPs and Trailblazers of class-action law. More about the law firm and its successes can be found at www.hbsslaw.com. Follow the firm for updates and news at @ClassActionLaw.
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