A class action lawsuit against GM alleging a misrepresentation regarding its Flex Fuel vehicles may proceed, a federal district court judge has ruled this month.
The lawsuit claims GM fails to disclose that the vehicles must alternately be filled with E85 and gasoline, not exclusively on E85. The lawsuit claims this is contrary to GM’s representation that Flex Fuel vehicles can “run on E85 ethanol, gasoline, or any combination of the two.” The named plaintiff claims his reliance on E85 for his 2016 Chevrolet Impala Flex Fuel vehicle caused the vehicle to break down.
The court dismissed the plaintiff’s first complaint for failure to state a claim, but only partially granted GM’s motion to dismiss the plaintiff’s second amended complaint. This most recent complaint claimed GM violated the Illinois Consumer Fraud Act through deceptive conduct and unfair conduct, and, further, committed common-law fraud.
The court declined to dismiss two of those three claims, applying the legal standard for motions to dismiss in which the court “accepts the well-pleaded factual allegations in the plaintiff’s complaint as true, ‘drawing all reasonable inferences in his favor.’” The court found the complaint sufficiently pled a deception claim based on the plaintiff’s claim that he relied on the absence of an excessive 85-use warning in the owner’s manual, given that omitting or concealing a material fact is deceptive conduct. The court noted GM allegedly stated in the owner’s manual that “E85 or FlexFuel can be used,” and using “E85 or FlexFuel is encouraged when the vehicle is designed to use it.” Drawing inferences in his favor, the court found the omission could plausibly mislead a reasonable consumer into using too much E85 and damaging their vehicle. Under a similar theory, the court also allowed the claim of common-law fraud to survive dismissal.
However, the court dismissed with prejudice the claim of unfair conduct under Illinois law. The court found he had failed to plead sufficient conduct under this law—that GM engaged in conduct that offends public policy, or that is immoral, unethical, oppressive, or unscrupulous, or that causes substantial injury to consumers.
The court set a status hearing for June 20, 2023. GM is seeking an extension of time to file an answer to the complaint.
The case is Michael Fleury v. General Motors LLC, case number 1:22-cv-03862, in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois.
You can read the Court's order below: