3 Notable Class Action Lawsuits Against Car Manufacturers

By CarsFellow 6 Min Read

Every day, we rely on the vehicles we drive to get us safely to where we need to be. From getting to work on time to running important errands, cars are an essential component of our lives. In order to protect drivers, cyclists, pedestrians, and other users of the roadway, organizations such as the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have the power to oversee and regulate the automotive industry.

The EPA primarily regulates vehicle emissions, while the NHTSA monitors vehicle-safety issues. Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS) are issued by the NHTSA to establish minimum safety performance standards for new auto parts or vehicle models. The safety standards cover essential features of modern vehicles such as lighting and tires. When vehicles do not meet these standards, either by intentional design or a defect in the manufacturing process, lives may be put at risk. In this article, we discuss some of the most significant class action and mass tort lawsuits against car manufacturers over the past few years.

What Are Class Action & Mass Tort Lawsuits?

A class action lawsuit allows a group of plaintiffs to initiate a single suit against one or more defendants. Should the lawsuit result in a settlement or favorable verdict, the damages awarded are split evenly amongst the plaintiffs. As noted by The Shapiro Legal Group, PLLC, mass torts differ from class action lawsuits in that “plaintiffs retain the right to collect compensation for their individual damages.” Both types of lawsuits are commonly subject to a statute of limitations, or timeframe in which potential victims may join the case against the plaintiff(s).

Lawsuit #1: FCA Chrysler Pacifica

Near the beginning of 2022, attorney Scott A. Olsen initiated a class action lawsuit against Fiat Chrysler Automobiles US, LLC. In the claim against the car manufacturer, Olsen stated that the company failed to disclose a known vehicle defect affecting the 2017-2018 Chrysler Pacifica Plug-in Hybrid Vehicles. The lawsuit alleges that vehicles falling into this category are at risk of suddenly exploding and catching on fire and that the manufacturer has been unable to solve the cause of the problem. An internal investigation carried out by Fiat Chrysler Automobiles found that approximately a dozen vehicles caught fire due to the defect.

Canada and the U.S. have since recalled the 2018-2018 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid. Those that own one of the affected vehicles has been encouraged not to charge them or park them near flammable objects, including other vehicles. Olsen argues that the relative unusability and unsafe nature of the recalled vehicles places an undue burden on owners, who find themselves unable to drive or even safely park their cars on their own property.

Lawsuit #2: General Motors

This previous March, a class action lawsuit in Florida was initiated against General Motors (M) by four owners of the car manufacturer’s truck or SUV models. The lawsuit makes the claim that the paint on the aforementioned vehicles was prone to peeling or flaking, despite no external damage or environmental conditions that could reasonably cause such a problem. Due to the issue, the vehicle owners want the affected vehicles recalled.

The lawsuit further alleges that GM was aware of the paint defect impacting their vehicles, yet continued to market and sell them to consumers. On a related note, Ford and GM are currently amongst the car manufacturers with the highest number of individual recalls and recalled vehicle models

Lawsuit #3: Tesla

Not all lawsuits are filed by consumers and targeted at vehicle defects or safety hazards. In some cases, former employees may band together to pursue a class action lawsuit or mass tort against their previous employer. In 2017, a former Tesla employee initiated a class action lawsuit against the company. The worker alleged that Tesla’s Fremont factory had a hostile workplace culture of racial hostility and intimidation tactics. Despite reporting the instances of harassment to supervisors, human resources representatives, and even the CEO of Tesla, the problems continued and the plaintiff was eventually terminated from their position.

How Can Someone Join a Class Action Lawsuit?

In most cases, you will be notified by mail if a class action that impacts you has been filed. As soon as you get the letter, you should read it thoroughly to determine how your rights are impacted. In some cases, the class action lawsuit may be restricted to residents of a certain state or people that suffered specific damages. If the lawsuit applies to you, it is likely that you will be able to submit a claim for compensation if the case is settled in favor of the plaintiffs. The notice you received in the mail should outline the legal process you need to follow.

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