— A Dodge Dart clutch lawsuit won't proceed as a class-action that alleges the cars have multiple defects in the clutch systems.
Plaintiffs Carlos Victorino and Adam Tavitian claim 2013-2016 Dodge Dart cars equipped with Fiat C635 manual transmissions have clutch pedals that fail and stick to the floors. According to the lawsuit, all affected cars built on or before November 12, 2014, suffer from the clutch problems.
The plaintiffs claim the hydraulic clutch system is defective where the “clutch pedal loses pressure, sticks to the floor, and fails to engage/disengage gears."
As a result, the Dodge Darts stall, fail to accelerate and suffer from premature failure of the clutch components, including the "clutch master cylinder and reservoir hose, clutch slave cylinder, release bearing, clutch disc, pressure plate and flywheel.”
According to the lawsuit, there are two separate defects.
First, the clutch pedals fall to the floors because of degradation of the clutch reservoir hoses which releases plasticizer and fibers.
This allegedly causes contamination of the hydraulic fluid and the contamination causes the internal and external seals of the clutch master cylinder and clutch slave cylinder to swell and fail.
When fluid in the hydraulic system becomes contaminated, all of the components that have been exposed to the contaminated fluid allegedly must be replaced and any steel tubing must be cleaned with brake cleaner and blown out until dry to ensure that none of the contaminants remain.
Second, FCA allegedly designed its clutch systems composed of an aluminum body with a clipped-on plastic base whereas other manufacturers’ slave cylinders are made of a single, solid cast aluminum component which creates a rigid base.
The plaintiffs claim Chrysler's two-piece design destabilizes the cylinder at its base, “which can result in unintended lateral movement and cause the piston inside the cylinder to become jammed.”
FCA issued technical service bulletin 06-001-16 in January 2016 entitled “Clutch Pedal Operation X62 Extended Warranty” to fix the contaminated hydraulic fluid caused by the degradation of the clutch reservoir hose.
In addition, dealers would perform “replacement of the hydraulic clutch master cylinder and reservoir hose” for the 2013-2015 Dodge Darts.
However, the plaintiffs claim the X62 extended warranty failed to fix the clutch problems and ignores the effect of the contaminated hydraulic fluid. According to the plaintiffs, if the hydraulic fluid is contaminated, all clutch system components are susceptible to damage and requires that all components within the system be replaced.
Chrysler argues there are no defects in the clutch systems and the seal swelling condition could affect only 16 percent of the Dodge Darts named in the lawsuit. The reason is allegedly because each car has clutch component parts that are manufactured differently.
FCA claims the reservoir hoses have different amounts of plasticizer, clutch master cylinders in different sizes and variations in the positioning of primary seals on the master cylinders.
The judge says after a June 4, 2018, hearing about certifying the lawsuit as a class-action, the parties filed notice of a potential settlement with plaintiff Tavitian. This leaves only plaintiff Victorino, who filed an amended motion for class certification.
Although the plaintiff claims the extended warranty didn't fix the problems, FCA argues Victorino was not affected by an incomplete X62 extended warranty repair because his vehicle never had or even needed the repair, and therefore, he has not suffered the same injury as other Dart owners who claim they have suffered.
Apparently the plaintiff didn't know how to respond to this because according to the judge, the "plaintiff did not address this issue in their reply."
The plaintiff also claims implied warranty claims should apply to a nationwide class of Dart owners and lessees, but Chrysler says the plaintiff cannot do that because the judge will have to apply the implied warranty laws of 50 different jurisdictions for a nationwide implied warranty class.
In addition, the plaintiff claims he doesn't have to perform a "choice of law or due process analysis," but the judge ruled he makes that claim without any legal authority. According to the judge, "Plaintiff’s argument that he does not have to address any choice of law or due process issue is contradicted by settled law."
"Because Plaintiff has not met the initial burden of demonstrating that due process is satisfied for purposes of a nationwide class, he cannot demonstrate that common issues predominate over the different questions posed by each state’s law. Accordingly, the Court DENIES Plaintiff’s motion to certify a Nationwide Implied Warranty Class."
The plaintiff also couldn't convince the judge that "used" Dodge Darts are covered by implied warranties, and although the plaintiff claims dealerships are FCA’s “distributors” or “retail sellers”, the plaintiff "provided no evidence of the relationship between FCA and its authorized dealerships."
To obtain class-action certification of a lawsuit, the judge says a plaintiff bears the burden of proving the class of owners and lessees meets a four requirements, but in this case the plaintiff failed to do that.
Therefore, the judge ruled the amended motion for class certification is denied.
The Dodge Dart clutch lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California - Victorino et al, v. FCA US LLC.
The plaintiffs are represented by Capstone Law APC.
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