Lawsuit Alleges Defects in Dodge Dart Clutch Systems
A putative class action alleges defects in the hydraulic clutch system of certain Dodge Dart vehicles. According to a first amended complaint filed against Defendant FCA US LLC, there are defects in certain 2013-2016 Dodge Dart vehicles equipped with a Fiat C635 manual transmission. Plaintiff alleges this defect causes the vehicle’s clutch pedal to lose pressure, stick to the floor, and fail to engage or disengage gears, resulting in the vehicles stalling and failing to accelerate, as well as premature failure of the Clutch Systems components, including the clutch master cylinder and reservoir hose, clutch slave cylinder and release bearing, clutch disc, pressure plate, and flywheel.
The complaint alleges that FCA has attempted to address owner complaints regarding the above defect since 2012 by, for instance, issuing Technical Service Bulletins and customer satisfaction campaigns; however, rather than remedying or redesigning the defective components, FCA has failed to replace all defective components during the repairs and refused to pay for any repair costs associated with collateral damage caused by the defect.
As alleged in the complaint: Plaintiff Carlos Victorino purchased a new 2014 Dodge Dart equipped with a Fiat C635 transmission. He experienced symptoms of the clutch defect, including the clutch failing to engage gears and stalling. From the first day he owned the vehicle, it “stall[ed] out” nearly daily. When Mr. Victorino noticed the gears were not properly “catching” when attempting to shift, thus “bogging” down the vehicle and resulting in a failure accelerate, Mr. Victorino brought his vehicle to San Diego Dodge. The service technician found the clutch assembly, flywheel, and slave cylinder were overheated and worn, and replaced them at the cost of $1,280.31. Mr. Victorino contacted FCA’s Customer Assistance Center seeking assistance for the clutch issue, and was told his clutch kit repairs would not be covered because the damage was due to normal wear and tear. He applied for reimbursement under FCA’s X62 Extended Warranty Program, but FCA denied coverage, taking the position that the clutch issues were Mr. Victorino’s fault.
Another named plaintiff in the original complaint, Adam Tavitian, alleged clutch defect issues in a 2013 Dodge Dart equipped with a Fiat C635 Manual Transmission. In part, he alleged that while driving on the start of a steep incline of an interstate, his clutch stuck to the floor and he was forced to pull it up after each shift for over 50 miles. However, due to a settlement, Mr. Tavitian was dismissed from the lawsuit in June 2018.
The first amended complaint asserted claims under California’s Consumer Legal Remedies Act, California’s Unfair Competition Law (UCL), state law breach of implied warranty pursuant to the Song-Beverly Consumer Warranty Act, federal law breach of implied warranty pursuant to the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act (MMWA), and unjust enrichment. After the court ruled on FCA’s motion for summary judgment and motion for reconsideration, the remaining causes of action in the case are: 1) the breach of implied warranty of merchantability claims under the Song-Beverly Act and the MMWA, and 2) a UCL claim premised on the breach of implied warranty claims.
In 2018, the district court denied class certification, and in 2019, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the ninth Circuit reversed this decision and remanded the case. Subsequently, the district court granted Plaintiff’s renewed motion for class certification, defining the class as “All persons who purchased or leased in California, from an authorized dealership, a new Class Vehicle primarily for personal, family or household purposes.”
In March 2020, FCA moved to decertify the class, arguing that it raised significant individual issues in identifying the class members, the proposed class would require numerous individual trials to determine affirmative defenses, and individual issues would predominate with respect to damages. Alternatively, FCA argued the class definition should be limited to “California residents who purchased a Class Vehicle from an FCA US LLC authorized dealership in the state of California primarily for personal, family, or household purposes, and who still own the vehicle and have not settled any disputed claim with FCA US related to the vehicle.”
On May 8, 2020, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California issued an order denying FCA’s motion to either decertify the class or modify the class definition. The court also denied without prejudice Plaintiff’s motion for approval of class notice and notice plan and directed the parties to meet and confer on Plaintiff’s proposed class notice and notice plan. On May 20, 2020, FCA filed a petition for permission to appeal the district court’s order in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.
On May 29, 2020, Plaintiff filed a notice of renewed motion for order approving the class notice and notice plan in the district court. On August 27, 2020, the court issued an order granting Plaintiff’s motion in part. On August 31, 2020, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit denied the petition for permission to appeal the district court’s May 8, 2020, order.
The district court has ordered the parties to file a joint report on class notice fourteen days after the closure of the class notice period. The district court case is Carlos Victorino, et al. v. FCA U.S. LLC, case number 3:16-cv-01617-GPC-JLB, in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California. The appellate case number is 20-80082, in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.