For Immediate Release
Consumer Groups Call for Reversal of Bankruptcy Court’s Decision to Exempt Chrysler from Accountability
Ruling that Undermines Lemon Laws in 25 States Should Be Overturned
WASHINGTON - Leading national consumer groups late Tuesday appealed the decision of
the federal bankruptcy court overseeing the Chrysler bankruptcy
proceeding, asking the court to preserve consumer protection laws and
the rights of victims injured by vehicle design flaws and defects to
seek compensation from Chrysler.
With the stroke of a pen, the bankruptcy court exempted
the new Chrysler/Fiat company that will emerge from bankruptcy
proceedings from accountability to consumers who have suffered or will
suffer injury or loss caused by defects.
Today’s appeal was filed on behalf of the Center for Auto Safety, Consumer Action, Consumers for Auto Reliability and Safety (CARS), National Association of Consumer Advocates (NACA) and Public Citizen.
“Even in the event of bankruptcy, consumers must be able to hold
corporations like Chrysler accountable,” said Adina H. Rosenbaum of
Public Citizen, lead counsel for the consumer groups.
Added Clarence Ditlow, director of the Center for Auto Safety, “The
bankruptcy court is eliminating key provisions in 25 state lemon laws
that consumer groups have worked for 30 years to get on the books.
These crucial protections went out the door with the stroke of a pen in
the Chrysler bankruptcy order.”
If the bankruptcy court decision for Chrysler is
any indication of how General Motors’ bankruptcy will play out, more
than a third of all vehicles on the road covered by lemon laws will
lose protection, said Ditlow.
If the ruling is allowed to stand, the new
Chrysler will not be responsible for any of its vehicles on the road
today after it emerges from bankruptcy. There will be zero liability
for the new company for consumers who suffer injury or death due to
egregious defects, nor will those with pending claims have any legal
recourse against the new company.
The decision also will have long-lasting consequences for lemon laws throughout the country. Owners
of Chrysler vehicles who seek refunds under state lemon laws will be
left with severely limited remedies; the Chrysler/Fiat sales order
approved by the judge contains language that would exclude it from
certain civil penalties and other liabilities for defective vehicles.
“Consumers must be confident enough in the Chrysler brand to
purchase their vehicles if the company expects to survive,” said
Rosemary Shahan, president of CARS, a nonprofit consumer group based in
Sacramento, Calif. “If Chrysler gets away with this, there is no
guarantee that the new Chrysler/Fiat won’t do the same thing to anyone
buying their cars in the future.”
Linda Sherry, director of national priorities at Consumer Action,
added, “Consumer Action is committed to fighting this lemon of a
decision, which could result in real tragedy around the country.”
“Starting off by avoiding accountability is no way to begin
rebuilding consumer confidence in the new Chrysler,” said Ira
Rheingold, director of NACA.
The groups’ appeal was filed jointly with three individuals who have
cases pending against Chrysler for injuries and deaths caused by
Chrysler vehicles. The individual objectors are represented by the law
firms Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein in San Francisco, and
Stichter, Riedel, Blain & Prosser in Tampa, Fla.
Separately, families and victims of defective GM and Chrysler
vehicles from six states, including men, women and children
catastrophically injured due to defective cars, will hold a press
conference at 11 a.m. today in 2226 Rayburn House Office Building. They
will speak right before the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science,
and Transportation’s hearing on GM restructuring and will ask Congress
not to leave injury victims out in the cold.
Public Citizen is a national, nonprofit consumer advocacy organization founded in 1971 to represent consumer interests in Congress, the executive branch and the courts.