SYRACUSE, N.Y. — A group of plaintiffs in a class-action lawsuit involving tire pressure monitoring systems (TPMS) is opposing Fiat Chrysler Group L.L.C.'s motion to dismiss the case on a claim that the trial court lacks jurisdiction.
Seven named plaintiffs filed the case in August 2016 before the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of New York, with an amended complaint listing an eighth plaintiff filed in March 2017.
Filing on behalf of plaintiffs in four states, the plaintiffs allege that Fiat Chrysler knowingly concealed a safety defect on Chrysler vehicles equipped with TPMS.
The valve stems on the TPMS can be corroded easily by road salt or other substances, causing air to be released rapidly from tires without warning, the plaintiffs allege.
Realizing the danger, Fiat Chrysler replaced the metal alloy valves on early TPMS modes with rubberized valves, according to the plaintiffs, but it did not recall the metal valves, setting up owners for inevitable tire failure.
In February 2017, Fiat Chrysler filed a motion and supporting memorandum for summary judgment.
According to Fiat Chrysler, the New York Northern District Court does not have jurisdiction over the auto maker. Fiat Chrysler has more than 80,000 employees in the U.S., only 91 work of whom work in New York State, the company said.
"This extremely limited presence is insufficient to supply the exercise of general jurisdiction," Fiat Chrysler said.
Nor does the New York court have any specific jurisdiction over Fiat Chrysler, the auto maker said.
Because Fiat Chrysler has a parts distribution center and dealerships in New York, the plaintiffs claim that the court has specific jurisdiction, Fiat Chrysler said.
"The reality is that dealerships are independent entities," it said. "(Fiat Chrysler) sells no cars to consumers in New York, and it has been forced to retain counsel here only because it has been sued here."
In their opposing brief filed March 27, the plaintiffs argued that Fiat Chrysler has both general and specific jurisdiction in the case.
"All Plaintiffs' causes of action relates to Defendant's actions in New York because Defendant engaged in the same conduct nationwide, namely: knowingly misrepresenting and internationally omitting and concealing material information regarding the defect in tire pressure monitoring systems in Class Vehicles both pre- and post-purchase," the plaintiffs said
They also claimed that Fiat Chrysler refused to honor TPMS warranties, and continued to sell vehicles that they knew had the TPMS defect.
The case is Steven Spratley et. al. v. FCA U.S. L.L.C., Case No. 3:17-vs-00062.