Hagens Berman Asks Federal Judge to Inform Owners: Pacifica Hybrid Minivans Still at Risk of Spontaneous Fire Post-Recall
DETROIT — Hagens Berman filed a motion for curative notice in a class-action lawsuit against Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) regarding a spontaneous fire defect in Chrysler Pacifica plug-in hybrid electric minivans, seeking the court’s intervention to protect owners from the automaker’s allegedly misleading communications.
The motion for curative notice, filed Jan. 26, 2024 in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan, claims that FCA created the impression, in its communications to Chrysler Pacifica owners, that its Oct. 2022 voluntary recall resolved the risk of spontaneous fire in affected vehicles. Consequently, according to the motion, owners believed they no longer needed to take certain safety precautions, and at least two destructive fires have occurred in vehicles that received FCA’s software update.
“We are asking the court to take immediate action to protect vehicle owners from the grave risks of this defect,” said Steve Berman, managing partner of Hagens Berman and the attorney leading the lawsuit. “Our team is taking every action possible to aid those who FCA has left in the dark.”
FCA’s Communications Misfire
According to the motion, FCA’s communications with owners of affected vehicles regarding the voluntary recall were misleading in three key ways:
- The recall notice characterizes the software update offered to owners as a “repair,” when in reality the software update merely operates to detect conditions that might lead to a fire and does nothing to prevent or halt the conditions that can lead to catastrophic fire and explosion.
- The recall notice does not inform owners that their vehicle still remains at risk of spontaneous fire, even once they have had the software update.
- The recall notice suggests that owners no longer need to take precautions such as parking away from structures once they have had the software update.
According to the motion, “These deficiencies give putative Class Members false assurances that they are no longer exposing themselves and others to an unreasonable risk of accident, injury, death, or property damage.”
The motion details the experiences of two families who suffered spontaneous fires after having the software update performed on their vehicles. In one case, less than a week after having the software update, a family woke at 2:40 a.m. to an explosion in their garage. The plaintiffs had to flee their home with their three young children and move the vehicle from their garage before it burst into flames. According to the motion, their home suffered substantial chemical smoke damage, and the family experienced significant health issues and was forced to spend approximately a month in an Airbnb.
Attorneys argues that, had FCA’s communications to vehicle owners not implied that the risk of spontaneous fire would be resolved by the voluntary recall software update, the plaintiffs named in the motion would not have believed it was safe to park their vehicle in their garage.
The motion includes, as evidence, numerous communications between FCA and customers impacted by the defect, which detail devastating house fires and financial ruin. In one communication to FCA that is documented in the motion, a customer writes of spending his life savings on this vehicle, only to have it allegedly cause a fire in his home which left him with a ruined electrical system. An FCA representative, in internal communications, writes that the customer is being “unrealistic” with requests for a cash payout and an electrical inspection of his home.
Attorneys for the proposed class seek a curative notice from the court informing all owners of affected vehicles that the risk of fire persists even after they have had the software update.
“Our hope is that a timely notice from the court could spare others the trauma and financial burden suffered by the plaintiffs named in the motion,” Said Berman. “We are persisting in our efforts to hold FCA accountable for this defect. But lawsuits take time, and people need this crucial information before it’s too late.”
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About Hagens Berman
Hagens Berman is a global plaintiffs’ rights complex litigation law firm with a tenacious drive for achieving real results for those harmed by corporate negligence and fraud. Since its founding in 1993, the firm’s determination has earned it numerous national accolades, awards and titles of “Most Feared Plaintiff’s Firm,” 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.