— A GM oil consumption lawsuit has been partly dismissed, but the judge granted the plaintiff the right to amend most of the claims.
Plaintiff Tim Nauman filed the oil consumption class action lawsuit related to 2011–2014 General Motors vehicles equipped with Generation IV 5.3 Liter V8 Vortec 5300 LC9 engines.
According to the plaintiff, his 2011 Chevrolet Silverado consumes an excessive amount of oil because the piston rings are defective. The oil consumption lawsuit alleges GM knew about the piston ring problem before the 2011 truck was sold to the plaintiff.
However, the automaker allegedly failed to warn the plaintiff about oil consumption issues.
Motion to Dismiss the GM Oil Consumption Lawsuit
In its motion to dismiss, GM argues breach of express warranty claims should be dismissed because the plaintiff alleges a design defect causes alleged oil consumption problems. But the warranty only covers defects related to materials and workmanship, not design defects.
GM also argues an overwhelming majority of courts have found the warranty does not cover design defects, convincing the judge to dismiss the claim.
GM further argues breach of implied warranty claims should be tossed because the plaintiff purchased his truck from an independent dealer and Washington law requires privity (a relationship) with GM. The automaker also says the plaintiff failed to allege his truck was unmerchantable at the time of sale.
In addition, GM told the judge the plaintiff's claim was filed too late.
According to Judge Benjamin H. Settle, the plaintiff did not respond to GM's arguments, leaving the judge no choice legally but to dismiss the breach of implied warranty claim.
The next claim GM argues should be dismissed is the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act (MMWA) claim. The automaker argues the claim must be dismissed because the plaintiff fails to name the required 100 plaintiffs.
The judge dismissed the claim when the plaintiff again didn't respond to GM's argument. This means only the Washington claims remain because the nationwide Warranty Act is dismissed.
Next, the GM oil consumption lawsuit alleges GM knew about problems based on three issues.
"Plaintiff argues that GM knew of the oil consumption defect through (1) GM’s eventual redesign of the engine at issue, (2) the numerous consumer complaints regarding the defect, and (3) GM’s Technical Service Bulletins, which Plaintiff alleges address the defect." — Judge Settle
The judge ruled against the plaintiff and found GM’s eventual redesign of the engine does not adequately allege knowledge of defects.
However, the judge says the consumer complaints may support an inference of knowledge.
"The Ninth Circuit has found that allegations of unusually high volume of complaints to the defendant directly adequately alleges knowledge. On the other hand, courts have expressed doubt that customer complaints on a manufacturer’s website adequately support an inference of knowledge because the complaints 'merely establish the fact that some consumers were complaining.'" — Judge Settle
The oil consumption lawsuit alleges there are numerous consumer complaints made to third parties and third-party websites, including CarComplaints.com. And those complaints reference the Generation IV Vortec 5300 engines.
According to the judge, the GM oil consumption technical service bulletins (TSBs) along with numerous complaints "support a plausible inference under Rule 9(b)’s standards that GM had knowledge of the oil consumption defect. At the pleading stage, Plaintiff has alleged sufficient allegations to support a plausible inference of GM’s knowledge."
Based on GM's motion to dismiss, the judge concluded the plaintiff cannot maintain an express warranty or unjust enrichment claim.
However, if the plaintiff chooses, he may amend and refile his claims related to a breach of implied warranty, violations of the MMWA and a claim for injunctive relief under the Washington Consumer Protection Act.
The GM oil consumption lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington at Tacoma: Tim Nauman, v. General Motors LLC.
The plaintiff is represented by Dicello Levitt Gutzler LLC, and Beasley Allen Crow Methvin Portis & Miles PC.