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Faltermeier v. FCA U.S. LLC

United States District Court, W.D. Missouri, Western Division

September 13, 2016

DAVID FALTERMEIER, on behalf of himself and all others similarly situated, Plaintiff,
FCA U.S. LLC, Defendant.



         This is a putative class action arising from alleged violations of the Missouri Merchandising Practices Act (“MMPA”), Mo. Rev. Stat. § 407.020. Plaintiff David Faltermeier alleges that Defendant FCA U.S. LLC (“FCA”) made misrepresentations during a vehicle safety recall that have caused Plaintiff and all other consumers who have purchased the recalled vehicles since June 4, 2013, an ascertainable financial loss.

         Now before the Court is Defendant's Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's First Amended Complaint (Doc. 66) under Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6). For the reasons listed below, the motion is GRANTED IN PART and DENIED IN PART.


         In 2009, FCA purchased assets and liabilities, including those associated with vehicle safety recalls, from Chrysler LLC, the company that manufactured Jeeps. In August of 2010, the Office of Defects Investigation (“ODI”) of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (“NHTSA”) ordered a preliminary evaluation of alleged defects[2] in Model Year 1993-2004 Jeep Grand Cherokee vehicles. Pl.'s First Am. Compl. (“Am. Compl.”) ¶ 12 (Doc. 65). In June of 2012, this investigation was expanded to include both Model Year 1993-2004 Jeep Grand Cherokee vehicles and Model Year 2002-2007 Jeep Liberty vehicles (collectively, the “Jeep Vehicles”). Id. In June of 2013, the NHTSA requested that FCA perform a safety recall of the Jeep Vehicles. See Id. ¶¶ 13, 25, 26; June 3, 2013, NHTSA Recall Letter, Am. Compl. Ex. A (Doc. 65-1). FCA agreed to perform a safety recall of the Jeep Vehicles and offered to install a trailer hitch to remedy the defect. Id. ¶ 25. Over the course of the next two years, the NHTSA criticized FCA's response to the safety recall request.[3] Id. ¶¶ 27-31. On July 2, 2015, the NHTSA held a public hearing to gather evidence regarding deficiencies in FCA's safety recall performance. Id. ¶¶ 30-31. Following this hearing, the NHTSA entered into a consent order requiring FCA to perform a vehicle buyback campaign and pay a $105 million civil penalty. Id. ¶ 32.

         In August of 2013-in the midst of the NHTSA and FCA recall efforts-Plaintiff David Faltermeier purchased a 2003 Jeep Liberty for personal use from a third party for $4, 900. Id. ¶ 5. Plaintiff maintains FCA has consistently and affirmatively misrepresented the design, safety, and performance of Jeep Vehicles from June 4, 2013, to the present. Id. ¶ 33. Specifically, Plaintiff cites to a June 4, 2013, press release and a June 18, 2013, press release (“the Press Releases”). Id. The June 4, 2013, press release reads in relevant part:

NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) has issued a recall request letter proposing that Chrysler Group recall the Jeep Grand Cherokee in model years 1993 to 2004 and the Jeep Liberty in model years 2002 to 2007 (a total of approximately 2.7 million vehicles).
Chrysler Group has been working and sharing data with the Agency on this issue since September 2010. The company does not agree with NHTSA's conclusions and does not intend to recall the vehicles cited in the investigation. The subject vehicles are safe and are not defective.
We believe NHTSA's initial conclusions are based on an incomplete analysis of the underlying data, and we are committed to continue working with the Agency to resolve this disagreement.
‘The safety of drivers and passengers has long been the first priority for Chrysler brands and that commitment remains steadfast, ' said Sergio Marchionne, Chairman and CEO of Chrysler Group LLC. ‘The company stands behind the quality of its vehicles. All of us remain committed to working with the NHTSA to provide information confirming the safety of these vehicles.'
Chrysler Group's position on this matter is clear.
These vehicles met and exceeded all applicable requirements of the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards, including FMVSS 301, pertaining to fuel-system integrity. Our analysis shows the incidents, which are the focus of this request, occur less than once for every million years of vehicle operation. This rate is similar to comparable vehicles produced and sold during the time in question.
Chrysler Group stands behind the quality and safety of its vehicles. It conducts voluntary recalls when they are warranted, and in most cases, before any notice or investigation request from NHTSA.
Am. Compl. Ex. F (Doc. 65-6 at 2) (emphasis added); Am. Compl. ¶ 33(a).

         FCA again falsely represented the Jeep Vehicles in a June 18, 2013, press release that reads as follows:

Chrysler Group LLC and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) have resolved their differences with respect to NHTSA's request to recall 1993-2004 Jeep® Grand Cherokee and 2002-07 Jeep Liberty vehicles.
As a result of the agreement, Chrysler Group will conduct a voluntary campaign with respect to the vehicles in question that, in addition to a visual inspection of the vehicle will, if necessary, provide an upgrade to the rear structure of the vehicle to better manage crash forces in low-speed impacts.
Chrysler Group's analysis of the data confirms that these vehicles are not defective and are among the safest in the peer group. Nonetheless, Chrysler Group recognizes that this matter has raised concerns for its customers and wants to take further steps, in coordination with the NHTSA, to provide additional measures to supplement the safety of its vehicles.
Chrysler Group regards safety as a paramount concern and does not compromise on the safety of our customers and their families.
Am. Compl. Ex. G. (Doc. 65-7 at 2) (emphasis added); id. ¶¶ 33(b), 34(b).

         Plaintiff also contends Defendant made deceptive representations identified in an attached “white paper” prepared by the Center for Auto Safety (“White Paper”). Id. ¶¶ 21, 34(c)-(e), 35(a)-(c); id. Ex. B (Doc. 65-2). This White Paper contains a summary of responses to the NHTSA's request that Defendant recall the Jeep Vehicles. See Id. Ex. B at 10. Plaintiff challenges several representations identified in the White Paper, including manipulations of crash data and misrepresentations of the proposed trailer hitch repair's effectiveness. See Am. Compl. ¶¶ 34-35; id. Ex. B at 1-4, 10. These alleged misrepresentations are summarized from the White Paper, and the Amended Complaint only specifically reproduces one quote from a former Chrysler executive regarding the trailer hitch's ineffectiveness. See Am. Compl. ¶¶ 34-35.

         Finally, Plaintiff asserts that the alleged misrepresentations have been widely-disseminated to the general public through the national media. Id. ¶ 36. Several news articles from various outlets reported FCA's position that the vehicles were “not defective, ” “safe to ...

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