$33 Million for Mitsubishi and Chrysler Owners
Stueve Siegel Hanson LLP, after 4 years of litigation in Missouri, Kansas and California, obtained final court approval of a nationwide class settlement valued at $33,000,000. The case settled claims alleging breach of express and implied warranty and deceptive trade practices arising out of the alleged defective 17 inch rims installed on approximately 350,000 1997-2001 Daimler/Chrysler Avenger and Sebring Coupes and 1997-2002 Mitsubishi Eclipse and Eclipse Spyder vehicles.
Stueve Siegel alleged that the 17 inch rims at issue were defectively designed to bend or deform to protect the fragile suspension and frame of the vehicles in question. As a result, Plaintiffs alleged that the rims would bend during normal use of the vehicles and that Mitsubishi and Daimler/Chrysler knew of this defect prior to selling the vehicles. Plaintiffs also alleged that Defendants failed to disclose this information to consumers. Stueve Siegel retained Robert Harold, a wheel design expert who conducted impact testing on Defendants rims and other manufacturers rims to establish the defective nature of the rims in question.
The very contentious litigation was underscored by the fact that two class certification hearings were held in the case. Lead class counsel Patrick Stueve along with Todd Hilton conducted a three day class certification hearing in Johnson County, Kansas and another one day hearing in Orange County, California. Following the California hearing, the Defendants sought a change of Judge which Stueve Siegel objected to and appealed to the California Court of Appeals. A third three day class certification hearing was set in Jackson County, Missouri when the parties reached a settlement that was finally approved by Judge Roldan on October 4, 2005.
Mr. Stueve was also assisted by partners Norm Siegel, who was involved throughout the litigation and helped negotiate the settlement, and Todd McGuire who assisted in preparing all of the briefs and settlement documents filed in the case.
The settlement provided that all class members who experienced deformed rims during the three year warranty period and replaced those rims would be reimbursed in cash 75% of the retail price of the wheels. Class members who had not replaced deformed rims at the time of the settlement may replace those rims and receive cash amounting to 75% of the retail price of the rims. All lessees of the subject vehicles will be reimbursed in cash for all deformed rims replaced during the lease term in the amount of 75% of the retail price of the rims. In addition, all lessees of the subject vehicles who paid penalties at the end of the lease for deformed rims are entitled to receive in cash 75% of the penalties incurred. The defendants also agreed to a one year extended warranty on all new rims purchased and agreed to pay Class counsel $6,000,000 in attorneys fees and $211,000 in expenses.
Defendants were represented by DLA Piper Rudnick, of Baltimore, Maryland and Shook Hardy & Bacon of Kansas City, Missouri. Defendants disputed every element of class certification, contending that individual issues concerning causation of the rim deformation predominated over any common issues underlying the claim. In addition, Defendants identified 5 experts who supported their claim that the wheels in question were not defective and that any deformation in the rims at issue were the result of driver error or poor road conditions.
Notice of the Settlement was mailed to 390,000 class members as well as published in the USA today several times.
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