Truckers May Sue Engine Makers

February 10, 1999

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Some truck owners are talking with attorneys about the possibility of suing engine makers over their recent multimillion-dollar settlement with the federal government on emissions.

Late last year, six engine makers signed an agreement with the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Justice to settle allegations that engine makers illegally manipulated truck engine controls in order to meet federal clean air regulations. Now some truck owners are saying they’re the ones that will have to pay the price.
Mark Algorri, one of the California attorneys representing about 500 truck owners, says once his firm started talking to truckers about the possibility of a lawsuit, word spread like wildfire. “Apparently there was great consternation in the trucking business that they had not been asked to participate” in the negotiations leading to the consent decree, he says.
“The deal was struck without the participation of the most important parties, the truck consumers,” he says. “Their voice was not heard, and this deal will be onerous on them. It’s our understanding that we’re going to have vehicles with impaired resale value. They’re going to run hotter, with less fuel efficiency, and I’m sure there will be other damages. [Truckers] will be shouldering the entire cost of this deal through passed-on costs.”
The lawyers plan to sue Caterpillar, Cummins, Detroit Diesel, Mack, Navistar International and Volvo on the grounds that the companies misrepresented to their customers that the engines met federal emissions requirements. They hope to gain compensation for the price truckers paid for what they are calling “defective” vehicles, as well as foreseeable losses truckers might have in the areas such as fuel efficiency.
Algorri says no lawsuit has been filed yet; the attorneys will first try to negotiate with the engine companies before turning to litigation.
Truckers aren’t the only ones unhappy with the agreement. Environmental groups also may sue, believing the government should have required a recall.

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