Caterpillar seeks consolidation of class action lawsuits over ACERT engines

By Clarissa Hawes, Land Line staff writer | 3/25/2014

Attorneys for Caterpillar Inc. are asking a panel of federal judges to consolidate five putative class action lawsuits filed against the company over alleged defects with its C13 and C15 engines purchased between 2007 and 2010.

According to court documents, Caterpillar is requesting that the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation consolidate and transfer the cases to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District in Florida.

Paul M. Weiss’s firm, Complex Litigation Group LLC in Highland Park, Ill., represents truck and bus owners who purchased vehicles with the allegedly defective C13 and C15 engines.

“What we have found from our clients is that after purchasing vehicles with these engines, they found out they are basically lemons,” Weiss told Land Line on Monday, March 24. “Besides the constant breakdowns, it’s a huge financial burden because there’s the money you have to lay out to fix the ARD (Aftertreatment Regeneration Device) head to have these engines regenerate or repower.”

Weiss said clients with the Advanced Combustion Emissions Reduction Technology (ACERT) diesel engines claim they started experiencing engine breakdowns about every 20,000 miles. He said their buses or trucks would suddenly shut down to regenerate or repower and had to be towed to a Caterpillar-authorized repair facility because the computer codes and software were proprietary.

“It you are a bus owner and you are driving a bunch of folks on the bus, that’s a major problem obviously when it shuts down and you have people on board,” he said. “It’s the same for truck drivers who have a delivery to make and they are stuck on the side of the road.”

The five separate putative class actions against Caterpillar are pending in federal court in Florida, New Jersey, California, Louisiana and Pennsylvania.

Weiss said he and other attorneys working on behalf of the drivers don’t have a dispute about consolidating the cases. It’s more about the venue.

“We are requesting the case be heard in federal court in New Jersey – the BK Trucking case – because it involves trucks and buses with the C13 and C15 engines,” Weiss said. “Caterpillar wants the case to be in Florida because the Florida court has limited the case to just the C13 bus issue.”

According to court documents, all five complaints allege that “C13 and C15 engines have defective regeneration systems; that the defects lead to frequent breakdowns and repairs causing economic loss to the owners of vehicles containing these engines; that Caterpillar failed to comply with its obligations under the emission system warranty; that the engines are not merchantable; and that the engines do not comply with a warranty of fitness for a particular purpose.”

Caterpillar has stopped making the C13 and C15 ACERT engines, but still repairs them if they are under warranty. However, Caterpillar denies knowledge that the C13 and C15 truck and bus engines were defective.

“The problem is that a lot of people went out and bought a used one of these thinking they got a good deal, not realizing that they bought a lemon – then finding out they have no warranty coverage,” Weiss said.

Salud Services Inc., doing business as Endeavor Bus Lines, along with four other bus companies who purchased buses with Caterpillar C13 engines, first filed their case in October 2012. BK Trucking out of New Jersey was the first trucking company to file a lawsuit in April 2013, which includes vehicles with the C13 and C15 engines.

Weiss said plaintiffs in the cases just want what the vehicles would have been worth had there not been a problem with the C13 and C15 issues.

“Honestly, the diminished value is between $50,000 to $80,000, what they lost in value and what it should be worth had they not had this problem.”

Weiss is urging truck drivers who purchased a vehicle with one of these engines to contact his office.

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