Appeals court denies Jeep owner's claim that automaker misrepresented safety issues

By Gabriel Neves | Aug 16, 2018

ST. LOUIS – The 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals recently granted Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) a summary judgment in a lawsuit claiming the automaker made misrepresentations about safety issues concerning some of its Jeep vehicles.

U.S. Circuit Judge Ralph Erickson issued an eight-page ruling Aug. 10 reaffirming the decision of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri granting the judgment against David Faltermeier in his suit against the auto giant.

Faltermeier sued FCA on June 2, 2015, in Jackson County Circuit Court in a class action on behalf of Jeep owners who purchased certain vehicles since June 4, 2013, after some safety issues had found in those vehicles. The case was later moved to district court.

Court documents about the case said that "in August of 2010, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) began investigating an alleged safety defect affecting two particular kinds of Jeep vehicles – 2002-2007 Jeep Liberty vehicles and 1993-1998 Jeep Grand Cherokee vehicles." Nearly three years later, NHTSA "reached the preliminary conclusion that the vehicles were defective and that they faced an increased likelihood of dangerous fires in rear crashes."

A recall was ordered, and FCA contested the NHTSA's conclusions, saying that "the vehicles were safe and not defective."

After more denials of the investigation, FCA agreed with the NHTSA, issuing "a limited recall to install a trailer hitch assembly, which it (FCA) asserted would help improve vehicle performance in low-speed accidents," the ruling said.

Erickson's decision also stated that Faltermeier "purchased a 2003 Jeep Liberty from an unrelated third party in August of 2013, two months after the FCA’s press releases (about the safety issues)," and he also admitted he did not learn about the releases "until months after purchasing the Jeep." In the class action suit, Faltermeier claimed that the company's statements about the safety of the vehicles were "false and misleading."

On Feb. 10, 2016, the district court denied a motion to remand filed by Faltermeier, and assessed damages of over $5 million, finding that "8,127 unique vehicles were potentially within the class and that the average sale price of a relevant vehicle was $6,638." 

Faltermeier filed an amended complaint one month later.

The lower court granted summary judgment against Faltermeier on March 24, 2017, and said, "FCA’s alleged misrepresentations were not made connection with Faltermeier’s purchase of his Jeep"

In his ruling, Erickson agreed with the district court decision and decided that Faltermeier's car purchase had no relation with the misrepresentation.

"We agree with the district court that evidence of some factual connection between the misrepresentation and the purchase is required. No evidence suggests that either the seller or the buyer was aware of the misrepresentation," the ruling stated.

8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals case number 17-2093 

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