Federal Judge Upholds Dodge Diesel Owners’ Claims in Emissions-Cheating Class-Action Lawsuit Against Fiat Chrysler and Cummins
Judge finds that lawsuit adequately pleads existence of defeat devices in trucks, and upholds most claims, including RICO charges
DETROIT – U.S. District Judge Terrence G. Berg upheld claims brought against Fiat Chrysler (FCA) and Cummins in a class-action lawsuit accusing the automaker and engine manufacturer of installing diesel emissions defeat devices in 2007-2012 Dodge RAM 2500 and 3500 trucks to cheat emissions testing, according to Hagens Berman.
The lawsuit, originally filed in November 2016, accuses FCA and Cummins of a similar type of emissions cheating that Volkswagen admitted to in the Dieselgate scandal, a case also led by Hagens Berman. The complaint outlines the direct collusion between FCA and Cummins, and explains how the two defendants “saw a golden business opportunity, and worked together to build a truck that, at least on paper, met these [emissions] standards, three years ahead of schedule.” Both FCA and Cummins vigorously promoted and sold their trucks based on their early compliance with emissions standards. But, according to the complaint, they met these standards by using a defeat device that allowed the trucks to pass inspection, but emit emissions at several times the legal rate in real-world driving conditions.
Affected vehicles include all 2007-2012 Dodge RAM 2500 and 3500 diesel trucks with a Cummins 6.7-liter engine. If you own an affected vehicle, find out more about your consumer rights to potential compensation.
In his Mar. 27, 2019 order, Judge Berg upheld RICO claims, as well as state consumer protection, fraud, and contract claims under all 50 states and the District of Columbia. The only claims he denied were for breach of warranty.
“We are pleased that the court has reviewed our case and upheld the overwhelming majority of our claims against FCA and Cummins,” said Steve Berman, managing partner of Hagens Berman and attorney representing the class of Dodge owners. “We believe FCA and Cummins – like Volkswagen – must face the music and take responsibility for its years of cheating emissions and lying to both regulators and the public.”
Judge Berg's opinion and order details the plaintiffs’ “rigorous inspections” and testing presented in the complaint. Emissions testing was conducted on three Dodge Ram 2500 trucks equipped with the 6.7-liter Cummins diesel engine: a 2007 with 41,000 miles, a 2009 with 48,000 miles, and a 2012 with 73,000 miles in both stop-and-go conditions and highway driving, through both cold and hot starts and flat road driving. One of the trucks was tested on a chassis dynamometer, to simulate EPA testing conditions. In addition to the PEMS testing and dynamometer, three trucks were fitted with data logging software that tracked all vehicle parameters broadcast by the vehicle’s computer.
The results of this testing showed that, in stop-and-go driving, emissions on average were 4.4 times the standard for the 2007 test vehicle, 5.3 times for the 2009 test vehicle and 3.8 times for the 2012. Maximum active regenerations reached as high as 14.9 times the standard. The 2007 is out of compliance with emissions standards 90 percent of the time, and the 2009 and 2012 80 percent of the time in stop-and-go conditions.
According to Judge Berg’s order, “Plaintiffs allege that the emissions controls in the 6.7L diesel engine did not function as advertised in most ordinary driving and, as a result, the trucks routinely emitted NOx at levels far in excess of what a reasonable consumer would expect, and burned more fuel as a result of the design of the aftertreatment. …Plaintiffs further allege that Defendants overcharge approximately $9,000 per truck (compared to comparable gas-powered trucks) plus additional fuel purchase costs based on misrepresentations made possible by the presence of a ‘defeat device.’ … Taken together, the allegations in the [complaint] clearly allege an injury-in-fact.” Regarding Plaintiffs’ allegations that defendants engaged in false advertising, Judge Berg concluded that “[t]hese well-pleaded allegations plausibly allege a scheme by defendants to intentionally misrepresent material aspects of the trucks in violation of state consumer protection laws.”
“Similarly, plaintiffs have plausibly pleaded claims of fraudulent concealment, because manufacturers have a duty to disclose all [defeat devices], and because Plaintiffs allege that Defendants had exclusive knowledge of the “defeat devices” but actively concealed them, knowing they would be material to consumers’ considerations,” Judge Berg’s order stated.
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