Navistar to face another MaxxForce engine lawsuit in Pennsylvania
October 4, 2021
A Pennsylvania federal court recently ruled that Navistar must face a lawsuit alleging fraud and misrepresentation of its MaxxForce engines.
U.S. District Court Judge Malachy Mannion of the Middle District of Pennsylvania recently denied Navistar’s motion to dismiss a lawsuit. Navistar claimed that the allegations brought forth by Lake Ariel, Pa.-based Team Biondi are prohibited by Pennsylvania’s “gist of the action” and economic-loss doctrines. Judge Mannion disagreed.
Initially filed in a Pennsylvania court of common pleas in November 2017, Team Biondi’s complaint claimed Navistar violated breach of express and implied warranty, breach of contract, fraud, fraud by nondisclosure, negligent misrepresentation and intentional misrepresentation. Those claims are based on MaxxForce engines in International trucks that had allegedly known defects.
According to the lawsuit, Team Biondi purchased 13 International trucks from a certified Navistar dealer between April 2012 and December 2015. Navistar’s warranty on the trucks state that they were free from any defects and in perfect working condition. However, Team Biondi began experiencing breakdowns of the MaxxForce-equipped trucks not long after the purchase.
As was the case in many similar lawsuits, trucks started to have issues with the exhaust gas recirculation system and related coolers, valves and other components. Those issues became costly because of repair expenses and downtime. Team Biondi claims that Navistar failed to adequately correct the issues with the MaxxForce-equipped trucks.
Team Biondi alleged that Navistar, through public statements and press releases, attempted to separate itself from the competition by claiming it was the only heavy-duty truck manufacturer in North America to rely entirely on EGR to meet the 2010 Environmental Protection Agency emission standards. The complaint stated that Navistar represented its proprietary EGR system as being certified under those standards.
Since other manufacturers use a combination of EGR and selective catalytic reduction to meet EPA standards, Navistar allegedly claimed that its EGR-only system provided better “fluid economy,” according to the lawsuit. Therefore, MaxxForce International ProStars would have the “lowest cost of ownership in the industry.”
Similar to other MaxxForce lawsuits, Team Biondi claims that Navistar was aware of the defective engines before hitting the market. Nevertheless, it proceeded with production. Furthermore, Navistar allegedly provided dealers with information that was inconsistent with the known defect. Consequently, sales representatives would relay false information to prospective buyers.
In an attempt to dismiss fraud and misrepresentation claims, Navistar invoked Pennsylvania’s gist of the action doctrine. That doctrine bars plaintiffs from pursuing tort claims that are essentially breach of contract claims. The doctrine protects defendants from contract claims that are disguised as tort claims in an effort by the plaintiff to seek punitive damages.
Similarly, Navistar also is invoking the economic loss doctrine in the MaxxForce complaint. The doctrine prohibits common law claims that assert economic losses arising solely from contractual duties.
“The gist-of-the-action doctrine bars (Team Biondi’s) tort claims because the duties alleged to have been breached arise from the parties’ contracts and warranties, not broad societal duties owed independently of the parties’ contractual relationship,” Navistar argued in court documents.
However, “Navistar had a duty independent of the sales contract with it not to violate the EPA 2010 emission standard(s),” Team Biondi argued. Considering EPA standards exist to provide cleaner air, violating those standards violates a broad social duty owed to all individuals.
Judge Mannion agreed with Team Biondi’s assessment. As a result, the now 4-year-old lawsuit will continue. LL