Panel transfers W.Va. Chrysler sludge suit to N.J. court

By Steve Korris | Mar 20, 2009

WASHINGTON -- Judges on a national panel transferred a West Virginia class action against automaker Chrysler and five similar suits to a New Jersey court.

The Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation assigned all six suits to U.S. District Judge Faith Hochberg in New Jersey.

The suits allege that oil sludge accumulated in 2.7-liter Chrysler engines, creating a risk of overheating.

In the West Virginia case, Robert Trezza and Susan Trezza proposed to lead a class action in federal court claiming Chrysler owes West Virginians at least $5 million.

Lawyer Rodney Miller of Birmingham, Ala., identified his clients as Ohio residents who formerly lived in Parkersburg.

The first page of their complaint stated that they bought a 1999 Dodge Intrepid. The fourth page stated that they bought a 1999 Chrysler Sebring.

They claimed Chrysler built a million defective engines from 1998 to 2004.

"Chrysler received hundreds of complaints of engine failure with the 2.7L engine, and was on notice that these engines were defective and would fail prematurely even with proper maintenance," Miller wrote.

Chrysler equipped engines with five quart oil pumps when Chrysler knew the engines needed six quart pumps, he wrote.

"Chrysler received more consideration from the sale of these vehicles than the class vehicles were worth," he wrote.

The transfer to New Jersey took effect on March 10.

Congress created the multidistrict panel in 1967, to consolidate pretrial proceedings in similar cases from various courts.

Multidistrict judges preside over discovery and trial preparation. For trials, they send cases back to the courts where they began.

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