Do you own a 2013 model year Chevy Equinox or GMC Terrain? Do you feel you were left out of last year’s oil consumption settlement?
If so, you may be in luck. A proposed class action lawsuit has been filed aiming to represent thousands of Chevy Equinox and GMC Terrain drivers who supposedly did not receive proper notice of the settlement due to what’s been called “an inadvertent error” by General Motors in identifying which vehicles were covered by the deal.
The 27-page lawsuit, filed on August 7 and transferred to Missouri federal court on October 28, argues proposed class members, i.e. those who allegedly did not receive proper notice about last year’s oil consumption settlement or their legal rights, are not bound by the terms of the deal and are therefore free to pursue claims against defendant General Motors.
What does the lawsuit say happened?
As part of the settlement, General Motors agreed to provide to a third-party company a list of the vehicle identification numbers (VINs) for each car covered by the deal. Per the lawsuit, the third-party company was then supposed to use the list of VINs, along with vehicle registration data and U.S. Postal change of address information, to find the addresses for drivers who could file claims with the settlement. The mailing list would then be used to send out notices to individual Chevy Equinox and GMC Terrain drivers.
According to the lawsuit, however, it was revealed in a recent court filing that General Motors had made the “inadvertent error” of omitting tens of thousands of VINs in compiling the list of 2013 model year vehicles covered by the deal. The April 1, 2020 court filing, which was submitted 135 days after the Florida federal court had entered judgment in the case, stated, in part:
GM has discovered that there was an inadvertent error in compiling the listing of model year 2013 Vehicle Identification Numbers (‘VINs’) that was used to generate the mailing list that the Settlement Administrator used for initial class notice and notice of the Court’s order approving the class action settlement in this matter (‘Settlement’). Due to this error, approximately 41,000 VINs were not included on the original model year 2013 VIN list, and as a result a number of owners of model year 2013 vehicles who are covered by the Settlement did not receive class notice or notice of the final approval of the Settlement.”
As the suit tells it, this error on GM’s part amounted to a failure to meet what’s known in the legal world as “due process requirements” and resulted in a large swathe of covered drivers never receiving proper notice of both their inclusion in the settlement and their legal rights. While the plaintiff and proposed class members eventually did receive notices of the settlement, they did not come in until after a fairness hearing was held in Florida court for the purpose of approving the proposed deal, the suit relays.
According to the suit, GM waited until May 8 – months after the automaker learned of its error – to send out a “consolidated class notice” that stated, in part:
You are receiving this notice now because your Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) inadvertently was omitted from the list of involved model year 2013 vehicles complied [sic] by GM. GM has now augmented the list and obtained names and addresses of all owners and lessees who register the Class Vehicles that were inadvertently omitted from the initial model year 2013 VIN list and Class Notice mailings.”
Those who received this notice had the choice to either “remain in the class and receive the benefits of the settlement” or “ask to be excluded.” According to the lawsuit, the consolidated class notice sent was deficient in a number of areas, including with regard to drivers’ statutory right to object to the deal and details of the benefits.
In all, the plaintiff asserts General Motors’ failure to do its part to ensure proposed class members were properly apprised of the settlement means the drivers are not bound by the settlement agreement or the court’s judgment in the class action.
Last year’s settlement afforded a “Special Coverage Adjustment” for affected 2013 vehicle models for which a driver could present their vehicle to GM for free diagnosis and repair of the oil consumption issue, pursuant to a mileage and an in-service time limitation. Drivers of 2013 vehicles covered by the settlement could also submit claim forms for full reimbursement of out-of-pocket expenses for repairs needed to address the oil consumption problem.
Which drivers does this lawsuit look to cover?
The lawsuit looks to cover those who meet the following definition:
All persons within the United States who purchased or leased, at any time before May 16, 2019, a new retail or used model year 2013 Chevrolet Equinox or GMC Terrain vehicle equipped with 2.4 liter Ecotec engines, manufactured prior to the General Motors production change which introduced 525 piston ring, and who were not mailed individual notice of the proposed settlement agreement until after the fairness hearing occurred on October 4, 2019, in Case No. 2-18-CV-14371, Berman et al v. General Motors LLC, in the United States District Court of the Southern District of Florida.”
What can I do now? How do I join the suit?
The best and perhaps only thing to do at this point is to sit tight and check back with ClassAction.org for updates. We’ll continue to keep a close eye on this case and update this page with any substantial developments Chevy Equinox and GMC Terrain drivers need to know.
In general, class action cases almost always take some time to work their way through the legal system, usually toward either a settlement or dismissal. This means that it might be a while—months or even years, in some cases—before the time comes for drivers who are considered part of the “class” to submit claims for whatever compensation the court deems appropriate.
Put simply, there’s nothing you need to do to “join” or be considered “included in” a class action lawsuit. What you can do, however, is sign up for ClassAction.org’s free weekly newsletter here.