— A Chrysler Pacifica engine stall lawsuit won't be dismissed after a federal judge ruled minivan owners have provided enough evidence for the proposed class-action lawsuit to proceed.
Plaintiffs Ryan and Sarah Wildin filed the Pacifica class-action lawsuit based on alleged defects in 2017-2018 Pacificas that cause the Fiat Chrysler (FCA US) minivans to stall.
An alleged error in the powertrain control module (PCM) software causes a loss of engine timing and leads to stalling without warning. In addition, Chrysler allegedly has concealed knowledge of the stalling problems and has been unjustly enriched by keeping customers in the dark.
According to the plaintiffs, FCA must have known about the stalling engines because in 2016 and 2017, the automaker issued several software updates for the engine and powertrain control module software.
On April 22, 2016, FCA issued a technical service bulletin (TSB) altering the PCM software in the 2016 Jeep Grand Cherokee and Dodge Durango, both of which contain the same engine and PCM software as the Pacifica.
The plaintiffs claim the TSB was sent to dealerships after customers complained about illuminated engine malfunction indicator lights in the SUVs.
Chrysler then superseded the TSB on August 5, 2016, again on November 22, 2016, and again on March 2, 2017. However, none of these TSBs mentioned the alleged stalling defect.
In August 2017, Chrysler released a T23 software update for the Pacifica, the Jeep Grand Cherokee and Dodge Durango which again updated the powertrain control module software due to engine malfunction lights.
The T23 update identified the old software was “operating the Exhaust Gas Recirculation valve (“EGR”) with an aggressive seating velocity which resulted in damage to the EGR.”
Chrysler also issued a recall in January 2018 to fix stalling problems, but the plaintiffs claim FCA informed customers that those who had already received the T23 software update need not receive the newest update.
This is allegedly because the recall is the same as the T23 update, but none of the attempts to fix the stalling problems have been effective. The lawsuit further alleges Pacifica customers continue to suffer from stalled minivans even after repairs have been performed.
The plaintiffs also claim the automaker knew about stalling problems because customers were complaining about stalled engines. However, although Judge Gonzalo P. Curiel ruled there is enough in the claims to show Chrysler may have known about possible stalling problems, it's not because of customer complaints.
According to the judge, the plaintiffs can't use customer complaints to show FCA knew about stalling problems because courts have said complaints by themselves don't adequately show an automaker knows about problems.
In addition, only one Pacifica minivan complaint made to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration or other websites referenced in the lawsuit predates the purchase of the Pacifica.
But according to the judge, technical service bulletins and official recalls can be another story because courts have found those things suffice to at least allege an automaker may have known of problems before the vehicles were sold.
In its motion to dismiss, FCA told the judge the plaintiffs fail to allege fraud because the lawsuit doesn't allege where or how information about stalling problems should have been revealed to the public. However, the judge disagrees and says the plaintiffs claim Chrysler could have used its website to warn potential customers about possible problems.
Chrysler says it “would defy common sense and real-world business practice” to disclose defects about stalling on its website, but the judge ruled that fact is currently irrelevant.
According to the judge, the question that must be addressed right now is whether the automaker "could have" revealed information about possible stalling problems, and the answer to that question is, yes.
The judge also ruled against dismissing a claim of unjust enrichment. FCA argues the claim should be dismissed because both affected parties have a warranty contract that precludes the claim, but the judge did not agree at this stage in the proceedings.
The Chrysler Pacifica engine stall class-action lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California - Ryan and Sarah Wildin, et al., v. FCA US, LLC.
The plaintiffs are represented by Capstone Law APC.