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Alleged Valve Stem Defect Leads to Class Action Lawsuit Against Fiat Chrysler

Seven consumers from four states (NY, NJ, OH, MI) have collectively filed a putative class action lawsuit against Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) over an alleged defect in some of their vehicle’s tire pressure monitoring system (TPMS). The suit, filed in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York on behalf of all potentially affected owners in the four states, alleges that FCA has “concealed a known safety defect from its customers.” The plaintiffs named in the suit contend that a defective valve stem in the TPMS can corrode and fail without warning. The lawsuit alleges that when the valve fails it can cause the tire to suddenly lose significant pressure while in motion “akin to a tire blow out.” Several of the plaintiffs claim that their tires suddenly lost air while they were driving, causing them to lose control of their vehicle.

The lawsuit claims that all seven plaintiffs “suffered harm as a result of Chrysler’s decision not to disclose the TPMS defect.” The faulty valve stems have allegedly been found in several of FCA’s 2010 model year vehicles, including the Chrysler Town & Country, the Jeep Liberty, the Dodge Grand Caravan, and the Dodge Journey. The lawsuit states that more than 160 complaints of corroding valve stems in Chrysler vehicles can be found on the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) database going back at least six years. But despite these numerous defect complaints, the lawsuit alleges that the automaker “actively concealed and/or failed to notify the public of the existence and nature of said defect.”

The suit also contends that the replacement valves, integral to the TPMS, have “often been on nationwide backorder” due to the commonality of this problem. When working properly, the TPMS is supposed to relay real time tire pressure information back to the driver. After the massive Firestone tire recall two decades ago, which led to more than 100 deaths, a federal law was put into place guaranteeing a TPMS in every vehicle less than 10,000 pounds by the end of 2008. The lawsuit alleges that FCA has “recognized the risk” by replacing many corroded valve stems with “a new rubberized part that was less likely to corrode,” yet no recall has ever been made.

FCA is also facing additional class action lawsuits brought earlier this month over their alleged violations of the Clean Air Act. On the heels of VW’s massive diesel emissions scandal, the EPA accused FCA of similar acts. And despite the automaker’s firm denials, class action lawsuits have been filed in both U.S. and Canadian courts over their 3.0-liter diesel engines found in 2014 to 2016 Jeep Grand Cherokees and 2014 to 2016 Dodge Ram 1500 pickup trucks. Authorities believe that more than 100,000 vehicles could be affected, which could cost FCA more than $4 billion in fines from the EPA alone.

As for the valve stem class action lawsuit, in addition to damages the plaintiffs want FCA to inspect and replace all failed valve stems in their four states.

To report a problem with the NHTSA visit: https://www-odi.nhtsa.dot.gov/VehicleComplaint/