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Court Dismisses Engine Owners' Lawsuit

January 27, 2000

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More than 100 engine owners who sued diesel engine makers over a deal struck with the federal government on emissions have been dealt a setback, but say it's not the end of the suit
On Jan. 12, a judge in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California granted a motion to dismiss the class-action suit, originally filed last September in Los Angeles Superior Court.

The engine owners had sued six major diesel engine manufacturers over the emissions consent decree signed between the engine makers and the U.S. government. The suit alleged unfair business practices, fraud and breach of warranty against Cummins, Mack, Detroit Diesel, Caterpillar, Navistar International and Volvo. In late 1998, these companies signed an agreement with the EPA, the U.S. Justice Department and the California Air Resources Board to settle a lawsuit alleging they used electronic engines to cheat on emissions tests. The engine makers agreed to pay a total of approximately $1 billion in penalties.
But the plaintiffs in the lawsuit say that they're bearing the burden of the costs of retrofit, decreased fuel economy, excessive wear and tear, loss of resale value, and downtime.
Engine makers say that older engines are to be modified during regularly scheduled engine rebuilds, at no cost to the owners. Cummins and Detroit Diesel note that their retrofits are relatively simple software application that should take no more than an hour, and that owners should notice no difference in the engines.

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Mark Algorri, attorney for the engine owners, says they will appeal. The judge heard no oral arguments on the validity of the claim, he says. "The court took no evidence and did not determine whether the diesel engine manufacturers are wrong or not wrong," he says. "It simply said that based on the pleadings, the case should be dismissed. This was not an evidentiary hearing, and it does not set the diesel engine manufacturers free."

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