Federal Judge Rejects General Motors' Argument that Fuel Pump Defect a "Mere Inconvenience"

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas, March 27, 2020 /PRNewswire/ -- A federal judge for the Southern District of Texas issued a ruling today rejecting the vast majority of arguments brought by auto giant General Motors in a motion to dismiss the class action litigation brought by Texas motorists who purchased GM-manufactured diesel trucks equipped with a defective high-pressure fuel injection pump known as the CP4.

In a 28-page opinion, Judge Nelva G. Ramos of the Southern District of Texas granted in part and denied in part GM's motion, but only granted the motion to the extent the Texas motorists' unjust enrichment claims were based on an overpayment theory; the judge found that all other causes of action and bases thereof may currently proceed as pleaded.

The Texas motorists originally filed suit against GM in December 2018, alleging that the CP4 high-pressure fuel injection pump, which comes standard in all GM-manufactured 2011-2016 6.6L Duramax diesel vehicles such as the Chevy Silverado and GMC Sierra, is incompatible with U.S. diesel fuel. The pump was originally designed for use in Europe, where the diesel fuel is "dirtier," or more lubricious, than that of the U.S. Because of the heightened pressure that the CP4 exerts in order to increase fuel efficiency, it causes the pump to disintegrate on itself, as the pump's internal metal parts rub against one another generating friction such that metal shavings wear off and are dispersed throughout the high-pressure fuel injection system. This process begins from the very first crank of the Duramax engine. Once these metal shards have sufficiently contaminated the high-pressure fuel injection system, the CP4 fuel pump will suddenly and catastrophically fail -- oftentimes while the vehicle is in motion -- and become unable to restart. What is more, the "repair" cost for a catastrophic CP4 failure is frequently upwards of $10,000, a cost which GM will not cover under warranty by blaming "fuel contamination" -- contamination which is caused by the shredding CP4 itself.

The Texas motorists claim that they would not have purchased their Duramax diesel vehicles had they known about the CP4 "ticking time-bomb" beforehand, and certainly not if they had known that they would have to foot the bill for an unexpected catastrophic failure.

On April 22, 2019, GM moved to dismiss the Texas motorists' first amended class action complaint, arguing that the auto giant's advertisements touting the vehicles' durability and fuel efficiency were "mere puffery" upon which the Texas motorists could not base their fraud allegations. In today's ruling, however, Judge Ramos disagreed, explaining that "[n]one of the [Duramax] advertisement materials noted that the vehicles were incompatible with U.S. diesel fuel," and noting that "[m]isrepresentations are not merely puffery or opinion if they are of a material fact:"

"GM's statements were not mere sales hype in light of the fact that the CP4 fuel pump was incompatible with U.S. diesel fuel, causing the engine to stall and requiring costly repairs. Because the CP4 pump exerted higher pressure to increase fuel efficiency, it destroyed the fuel injection system and the engine altogether. Plaintiffs allege that GM had superior knowledge that the vehicles were not durable or reliable. This information was not equally available to Plaintiffs."

The Court went on to roundly reject GM's "suggestion" that the risk of catastrophic CP4 failure did not present an inherent safety risk:

"The worst case scenario of a truck spontaneously stalling at high speeds is not a mere inconvenience. Nor is it a mere inconvenience to spend between $8,000 to $20,000 on repairs to make the trucks fit for their ordinary purpose. The Court rejects GM's suggestion that the risk of spontaneous engine failure while driving is not, as a matter of law, unreasonably dangerous, depriving the vehicles of fitness for their purpose of transportation."

Notably, GM largely lost a similar motion to dismiss last July in a case out of the Northern District of California, where California drivers brought suit based on the same CP4 fuel pump defect but have since agreed to transfer to the Eastern District of Michigan. See In re: GM LLC CP4 Fuel Pump Litig., No. 3:18-cv-07054-JST (N.D. Cal.), ECF No. 51.

Attorney Bob Hilliard, who has initiated a series of CP4-based class action cases across the country against automakers like GM, Ford, and Chrysler, issued a statement saying, "The fuel pump is the heart of the diesel engine. GM intentionally put a defectively designed CP4 fuel pump in every one of its 2011-2016 Duramax diesel trucks--and, as the court noted today, from mile one it will begin to fail. There is no fix. The only question is how much will it cost the customer? Generally the answer is in the tens of thousands of dollars. GM is now about to learn, Don't Mess With Texas Trucks!"

The Texas motorists are represented by Robert C. Hilliard, Lauren Akers, Marion Reilly and Bradford P. Klager of Hilliard Martinez Gonzales LLP; Steve W. Berman and Jerrod Patterson of Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro LLP; Andrew Parker Felix of Morgan & Morgan PA; and Eric H. Gibbs, David Stein and Steven Lopez of Gibbs Law Group LLP.

General Motors LLC is represented by April N. Ross, Honor R. Costello, and Kathleen T. Sooy of Crowell & Moring LLP; and Darrell L. Barger of Hardline Barger LLP.

The case is Click, et al. v. General Motors LLC, Case No. 2:18-cv-00455, pending before the Honorable Judge Nelva G. Ramos in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas.

ABOUT HMG http://www.hmglawfirm.com/

Hilliard Martinez Gonzales LLP (HMG) has been successfully representing clients in the United States and Mexico since 1986. The firm specializes in mass torts, personal injury, product liability, commercial and business litigation, and wrongful death. Founding partner Bob Hilliard was named 2016 Elite Trial Attorney of the Year (Motor Vehicles) and 2015 Elite Trial Attorney of the Year (Product Liability) by the National Law Journal. His cases have been covered by The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, NBC, ABC, CBS and Fox News.

Contact Lauren Gonzales at 361-960-3146

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SOURCE Hilliard Munoz Gonzales LLP