Product Liability & Toxics Law News

Most Fiat Chrysler Gearshift Class Claims Proceed

Nov. 29, 2018, 5:36 PM

Consumers alleging they overpaid for Fiat Chrysler vehicles containing a gearshift defect may proceed on most of their claims, a federal court ruled Nov. 28.

Dodge, Jeep and Chrysler vehicles were equipped with a defective electronic gearshift that returns to a central position after a driver switches gears, the proposed class actions against FCA US LLC allege. The suits are consolidated in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan.

Drivers can’t clearly tell which gear their vehicle is in, consumers say. The flaw has resulted in hundreds of accidents and vehicle rollaways, they say.

In one high-profile individual suit, Star Trek actor Anton Yelchin’s parents sued Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV for wrongful death after Yelchin was killed when his 2015 Jeep Grand Cherokee rolled down on him in his driveway.

Some personal injury suits are also part of the multidistrict litigation.

The would-be class claims for overpayment now cover 24 states, down from 26 after two plaintiffs withdrew, the court said.

FCA did succeed on some claims.

Claims for breach of an implied warranty by Nevada and Washington plaintiffs can’t proceed because FCA didn’t sell them the vehicles directly, the court said.

And the economic loss doctrine, which generally bars some tort claims for “purely economic” product-related harm like damage to the product itself, knocks out some parts of a claim by Minnesota vehicle owners.

But claims by residents of six other states are unaffected, the court said.

Fiat Chrysler declined to comment through spokesman Michael Palese Nov. 29.

The Miller Law Firm PC, Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro LLP, and others represent the plaintiffs.

Dykema Gossett PLLC represents FCA US.

The case is In re FCA US LLC Monostable Elec. Gearshift Litig., E.D. Mich., No. 16-md-02744, 11/28/18.

To contact the reporter on this story: Martina Barash in Washington at mbarash@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Jo-el J. Meyer at jmeyer@bloomberglaw.com; Nicholas Datlowe at ndatlowe@bloomberglaw.com

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