Chevy Cruze Class Action Lawsuit May Be Ending
After 5 years in court, the judge says there is no evidence that Cruze cars have illegal emissions.
September 6, 2021 – A class action lawsuit against Chevy Cruze could near end after five years in court as the federal judge says plaintiffs have provided no evidence that the cars are equipped with emission control devices.
The Chevrolet Cruze class action lawsuit was filed in July 2016 by owners claiming Cruze diesel cars emit illegal nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions from 2014 to 2015.
The plaintiffs who sued allege that General Motors committed the same sins as Volkswagen by directing its engineers to design and install exhaust gas removal devices on the Cruze vehicles.
The lawsuit alleges that the Diesel Cruze cars were tampered with to deceive the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the California Air Resources Board (CARB).
The plaintiffs also claim they were injured because they paid too much for their cars as a result of GM’s alleged fraudulent behavior.
Robert Bosch was later included in the lawsuit when plaintiffs alleged the company supplied the illegal software allegedly installed in the Cruze vehicles.
Chevy Cruze Class Action: Discovery
Unlike many class action lawsuits against automakers, General Motors decided to continue its legal battle by moving into the discovery phase, a pre-trial phase where evidence and information are formally collected.
During the investigation, GM is collecting information from the sued car owners, and the owners are collecting documents and information from the automaker.
Both sides will request official documents and witnesses, car owners and experts will be heard under oath, while non-parties can be summoned.
Judge Thomas L. Ludington says the discovery phase is complete and there is no evidence that GM Chevrolet Cruze vehicles are equipped with exhaust suppression devices.
The case has been running for more than five years and 400 inquiries, but the judge says the evidence “raises a serious question about the adequacy of this court’s continued exercise of jurisdiction”.
When the class action lawsuit was in the pleading stage, the judge said the plaintiff’s theory that he paid too much for his cars allowed the trial to continue. GM continued to deny that the cars were equipped with illegal emissions software, but the judge found that the plaintiffs “carried their burden” during the pleading phase of the trial.
But after several years of discovery, the judge finds that neither the EPA nor the CARB have released any evidence of emissions violations against the Chevy Cruze diesel vehicles.
Emails and meetings show that GM communicated with CARB and the EPA before and after plaintiffs filed the class action lawsuit in 2016, but eight years after the 2014 Cruze was produced, no federal or state lawsuits were brought against General Motors.
In June 2019, GM filed a motion under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requesting all communications about Chevy Cruze diesel vehicles from 2014 to 2015 between CARB, the EPA, the law firms of the plaintiffs and GM, and researchers at West Virginia University became.
This FOIA request has produced no evidence that the EPA or CARB are investigating GM or Bosch for misrepresentation of the Chevy Cruze.
“The EPA and CARB’s inaction on the Chevy Cruise diesel appears to discredit plaintiffs’ allegation that the defendants implemented a shutdown device and that this device caused economic damage unfounded.” – Judge Ludington
The judge also says the only evidence of excessive emissions came from a test of just one Chevy Cruze diesel car bought by lawyers for the plaintiffs. No other Cruze cars were tested, not even the cars of the GM owners who filed the lawsuit.
According to the judge, the plaintiffs are relying on the allegation that the nitrogen oxide emissions of a used Chevy Cruze represent the emissions of the entire fleet of cars.
Chevy Cruze lawsuit: plaintiffs testimony
According to the judge, plaintiffs’ statements and responses “did not substantiate the original claim that NOx emissions from Chevy Cruze diesel vehicles exceeded EPA and CARB requirements”.
The judge says the plaintiffs’ testimony was contradicting and several plaintiffs had not even heard of nitrogen oxides prior to filing the lawsuit.
Seven of the plaintiffs testified that they expected the Chevy Cruze diesel engine to produce lower emissions than a comparable gasoline engine. However, the comparison between gasoline and diesel vehicles is not appropriate.
Gasoline and diesel engines work very differently and therefore produce different emissions, with diesel engines producing more emissions than gas engines.
The judge used evidence from the Cruze window sticker as well as the US government.
The window sticker (Monroney label) for the 2014 Chevy Cruze Diesel shows a smog rating of 5 out of 10 and a CO2 emissions rating of 7 out of 10. The smog assessment includes emissions “such as nitrogen oxides, organic non-methane gases, carbon monoxide, fine dust and formaldehyde”.
The judge notes that a head-to-head comparison on FuelEconomy.gov shows that the EPA smog rating for the 2014 Chevy Cruze diesel is 5 out of 10 and its gasoline counterpart is 6 out of 10.
“In addition, the greenhouse gas emissions for CO2 tailpipes are rated 7 out of 10 for diesel engines and 8 out of 10 for gasoline. – Judge Ludington
Two of the plaintiffs also say they expected the Chevy Cruze’s diesel emissions to match the window sticker on the vehicle, but the judge says the plaintiffs have provided no evidence that the Chevy Cruze diesel emits more nitrogen oxides than the Monroney sticker disclosed or what the EPA and CARB have approved.
Four of the plaintiffs say they expected the Chevy Cruze diesel to be good for the environment with little to no emissions. And four Cruze owners say they expected their Chevy Cruze diesels to be cleaner than previous generations of diesels.
But according to the judge, “none of these plaintiffs have identified what benchmarks they are looking for from the Cruze.”
“In the pleading phase, this court accepted the plaintiffs ‘claim that they were’ harmed ‘by paying a premium for a service they had never received. As noted above, the plaintiffs’ testimony hardly supports this theory.” – Judge Ludington
Chevy Cruze’s class action lawsuit also alleges that owners were injured because not only did they pay a premium for “clean diesel”, but the owners suffer out-of-pocket losses for “future attempts at repairs”.
The judge did not buy these arguments because the Cruze cars were not recalled and plaintiffs have not provided evidence in five years that they ever tried to have their cars repaired.
According to Judge Ludington, “four long years of discovery have not produced the widespread evidence of fraudulent technical and regulatory fraud that plaintiffs have alleged in this case.”
The plaintiffs who sued GM have until October 1, 2021 to prove why the judge shouldn’t dismiss the lawsuit.
The Chevy Cruze class action lawsuit was filed in the Eastern District of Michigan District Court: Counts et al., V. General Motors LLC.
The plaintiffs are represented by Carella, Byrne, Cecchi, Olstein, Brody & Agnello, PC, Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro LLP and Seeger Weiss LLP.