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8th Circuit reinstates engine defect class action

The 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals revived a dismissed putative class-action lawsuit against General Motors over an alleged engine defect causing excess oil consumption.

After a Northern District of California judge barred non-California plaintiffs from joining a putative class action alleging an engine defect affecting seven different GMC and Chevrolet truck and SUV models issued between 2010 and 2014, a Missouri-based class action sprung up in the U.S. District Court Eastern District of Missouri.

Class representatives Michael Tucker and Robert Riddell claim that GM knew about the oil consumption defect by 2008 but failed to disclose the defect to buyers. The complaint stated that GM had violated the Missouri Merchandising Practices Act and included unjust enrichment and other claims.

The district court dismissed the lawsuit, but on appeal the 8th Circuit reinstated it over the MMPA claim. Judge James B. Loken noted that the district court briefs’ MMPA arguments were “superficial at best” and had focused on other claims not at issue on appeal, but the plaintiffs had a plausible MMPA claim that GM failed to disclose the defect.

“Because the alleged oil consumption defect concerned the inner workings of a complex machine that the average consumer would be unlikely to know or be able to research, we conclude these allegations are sufficient to plausibly plead this element of Plaintiffs’ MMPA omission claims,” Loken wrote.

Amanda Shafer Berman of Crowell & Moring in D.C. represented GM during Nov. 21, 2022 oral arguments. She did not return a call requesting comment. According to the opinion, GM had claimed that to avoid dismissal, the MMPA claim must be tied to an actionable affirmative statement that GM made in its marketing materials, but the court disagreed.

Judges Morris S. Arnold and Jonathan A. Kobes concurred.

Justin J. Hawal of DiCello Levitt in Mentor, Ohio represented Tucker and Riddell in oral arguments. He did not return a call requesting comment.

The case is Tucker et al. v. General Motors, 21-2698.