Another lawsuit has been brought against Caterpillar for alleged problems with its 2007-09 C13 and C15 diesels. This suit, a class action complaint filed by Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll PLLC, represents 22 trucking and transportation firms and individuals in 18 states that had purchased or leased vehicles powered by the Cat engines.

This is at least the 16th suit filed against Caterpillar over problems with the engines. Motor carriers, bus lines and at least one boat operator are represented in previously filed lawsuits in various jurisdictions. A Caterpillar spokesperson declined to comment because the suit is pending.

Cat called the affected diesels ACERT, for Advanced Combustion Emissions Reduction Technology. The aftertreatment equipment was unique in that its exhaust-gas recirculation (EGR) system piped cleansed gas back to the inlet system to keep intake air clean. EGR cools combustion temperatures to reduce production of nitrogen oxide, a smog causer. But the system, and its series-turbochargers and other devices, proved troublesome, fleet managers have complained over the years.

Plaintiffs in the latest suit charge that defects in the exhaust emission system resulted in power losses and shutdowns that prevented or impeded their vehicles from transporting goods or passengers, a Cohen Milstein press release said on Thursday.

Theodore Leopold, a law firm co-counsel in the suit, said the plaintiffs suffered “significant damages” from operational losses, diminished vehicle value, and costs incurred in replacing the Cat engines with other EPA 2007 emission-legal diesels.

“Many of these trucking and transportation operations are small businesses and family-owned shops that can’t afford to have trucks break down due to defects,” said Leopold.  “Having their trucks out of commission created a financial hardship for these operators that Caterpillar has a responsibility to resolve, including the significant loss in value of the trucks due to the defects.”

The consolidated complaint against Cat, filed under seal on Oct. 6 in the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey, detailed a number of known product problems, including that the engine system was not designed, built and equipped to conform with exhaust emission regulation standards without causing repeated engine failures or shut down commands that caused the vehicles to lose power and/or stop running.

The lawsuit alleges that while the design was marketed as a reliable, durable and fuel-efficient system, the engines are defective and have been marketed and distributed under false pretenses. 

“Each time their vehicle had problems, these plaintiffs repeatedly were told that an emissions warranty repair would correct the defect, when Cat knew, or should have known, that the exhaust emission system defect could not be corrected,” said Leopold.  

The same issues are also being litigated on behalf of defective Caterpillar C13 bus engines that involve the same defective ACERT systems, the law firm said. The bus litigation is pending in the same New Jersey federal court.

The 22 truck engine plaintiffs represent purchasers and lessees of vehicles with the EPA 2007 Cat engines in California, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, South Dakota, Texas, Utah and Wisconsin.

In addition to Cohen Milstein, co-lead plaintiffs’ counsel are Shepherd, Finkelman, Miller & Shah, LLP, and Quantum Legal LLC.