Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid battery fire class action claims won't be heard by arbitrator.

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Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid Problems: Lawsuit Continues
Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid battery fire class action claims won't be heard by arbitrator.

— Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid problems will be argued in court and not in front of an arbitrator, according to the judge hearing a class action lawsuit about 2017-2018 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid minivans.

The lawsuit alleges hybrid battery defects cause the minivans to catch fire or even explode at any time, including when the vehicles are parked and turned off.

The plaintiffs assert they cannot drive the vehicles or leave the Pacifica Hybrids unattended without worrying about the safety of the vehicles.

In addition, the plaintiffs contend fire risks force them to park away from structures or other vehicles in case the Pacifica Hybrids catch fire.

FCA did issue a formal Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid recall of the vehicles because of problems that could cause fires, but the class action lawsuit alleges the repairs really don't repair the vehicles.

The judge notes the consolidated class action lawsuit is a massive 1,450-paragraph lawsuit that spans more than 430 pages which altogether comprise 11 class actions with 69 named plaintiffs who have pleaded more than 81 counts under the laws of 31 states.

Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid Lawsuit: No Arbitration

Fiat Chrysler filed a motion to dismiss the Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid class action in December 2022, then five months later Chrysler filed its motion to compel arbitration.

According to FCA, at least 18 plaintiffs signed retail sales contracts with their dealers that included arbitration clauses. And the arbitration agreements leave to the arbitrator, "all questions involving the scope of the clauses and whether the plaintiffs’ claims are subject to arbitration."

However, the judge says the main issue is whether Chrysler waited too long to file the motion to compel arbitration.

Judge David M. Lawson references a Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit ruling which held the filing of a motion to dismiss challenging the merits of lawsuit claims "plainly is inconsistent with a defendant’s reliance on an arbitration agreement. However, ‘[n]ot every motion to dismiss is inconsistent with the right to arbitration.’”

Judge Lawson eventually denied Chrysler's motion to compel arbitration.

"Here, the defendant waited too long to broach the topic of arbitration, and consequently it waived its right to the alternative forum by first seeking dispositive relief in this Court and then, months later, attempting to invoke its arbitration right." — Judge Lawson

The judge went on to say Fiat Chrysler waived or forfeited its right to compel arbitration by waiting to file its motion seeking to "compel a transfer of the cases of the 18 plaintiffs to a nonjudicial forum until after it actively had engaged with the merits of the case and filed a motion to dismiss challenging all of the pleaded claims on the merits."

"That conduct plainly was inconsistent with reliance on the arbitration agreements. Accordingly, it is ORDERED that the motion to compel arbitration is DENIED."

The Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid class action lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan (Southern Division): IN RE: Chrysler Pacifica Fire Recall Products Liability Litigation.

The plaintiffs are represented by Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro LLP, The Miller Law Firm, P.C., Barrack, Rodos & Bacine, Cotchett, Pitre & McCarthy, LLP, and Casey Gerry Schenk Francavilla Blatt & Penfield LLP.


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