Aug. 30–Illinois trucking companies with nationwide operations have been burdened with unexpected towing, lodging and rental car expenses for their drivers due to problem-plagued Navistar vehicles in their fleets, three lawsuits filed last week allege.
The legal filings from Elk Grove Village, Mount Prospect and Normal companies came about two weeks after a Tennessee jury found Navistar guilty of committing fraud and violating state consumer-protection laws. The jury ordered the Lisle-based manufacturer to pay $30.8 million — including $20 million in punitive damages — to a Tennessee company over problems with its MaxxForce-brand diesel engines. That’s the product line that’s also at the heart of the local lawsuits.
Clay Miller, a lawyer in the Tennessee case as well as the three lawsuits filed in Cook County Circuit Court, said he’s representing clients in about 20 cases nationwide over Navistar’s MaxxForce engine.
The Illinois companies filed a joint lawsuit in 2015 in Cook County, alleging Navistar breached its contract and misrepresented facts when it sold them defective trucks with MaxxForce engines. Navistar, however, objected to the companies combining their grievances into one lawsuit, arguing that the alleged problems arose out of separate purchases. A judge dismissed the joint lawsuit, but the companies were allowed to file lawsuits separately, which they did last week.
Navistar says it will “vigorously contest” the new lawsuits’ allegations, which mirror those in the dismissed lawsuit.
Damages awarded in the Tennessee case include $8.2 million for the diminished value of the trucks, court records show.
“The engines were of horrible quality,” said Miller, the trucking companies’ lawyer. “The resale value of these things is in the tank, with MaxxForce selling for $30,000 less than competitive trucks.”
Besides diminished resale values, the Illinois companies that bought the trucks have endured out-of-pocket repair expenses, unreimbursed driver downtime, and towing, lodging and rental car expenses, the lawsuits say.
Navistar was disappointed with the jury’s verdict in favor of Tennessee-based Milan Supply Chain and is evaluating options to challenge it, spokeswoman Lyndi McMillan said. Navistar has successfully fought claims regarding MaxxForce engines in other jurisdictions, including dismissal of fraud claims in courts in Texas, Wisconsin, Michigan, Indiana, Alabama and Illinois, she said, and “strongly disagrees” with allegations in the Tennessee case.
Navistar tested the MaxxForce engines consistent with industry standards and for 12 million miles under rigorous conditions before launch, in tests and on the road, McMillan said.
“All products undergo continuous improvement throughout their life cycle,” she said. “When some parts unexpectedly failed, we fixed them under warranty for our customers, including Milan Supply.”
The three Cook County lawsuits were filed by Elk Grove Village-based Atlas SN Leasing, Atlas SN and Tak Trucking; Mount Prospect-based Patron Transport Co.; and Normal-based Williams National Lease, Williams Systems, WNL Transportation and Williams Logistics.
Atlas SN Leasing, for example, bought 26 of Navistar’s International ProStar semitrailers with 13-liter MaxxForce engines in late 2011 and early 2012 and leased them to Tak and Atlas SN. Atlas says in its lawsuit that it was assured that the trucks were in “perfect working order and without defect.”
Soon after, however, the trucks’ exhaust gas recirculation emission systems started breaking down, and efforts to fix the problems have been unsuccessful, the suit alleges. The systems recirculated exhaust gas back into the engines, reducing their efficiency and generating soot that also hurt the engines, the lawsuit says. Even before Atlas bought the ProStar trucks, Navistar knew the line was “woefully inadequate,” according to the suit.
Navistar, however, said it has invested “a significant amount of resources standing behind our products and supporting our customers and will continue to do so as we roll out exciting new products and technologies that have been well-received.”
In June, Navistar said losses on used-truck sales worsened in the second quarter, due mostly to a $60 million charge it took against earnings for the MaxxForce used-truck inventory. Navistar said it would try to reduce inventories of those used trucks by selling them in foreign markets.
Class-action lawsuits over the MaxxForce engines also are pending in Canadian and U.S. federal courts, including in Illinois.
(c)2017 the Chicago Tribune
Visit the Chicago Tribune at www.chicagotribune.com
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.