In re General Motors Corp. Pick-Up Truck Fuel Tank Products Liability Litigation

55 F.3d 768 (1995)

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In re General Motors Corp. Pick-Up Truck Fuel Tank Products Liability Litigation

United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit
55 F.3d 768 (1995)

Facts

Fuel-tank fires in pick-up trucks with side-saddle gas tanks sparked dozens of class actions against manufacturer General Motors Corporation (GM) (defendant). After consolidation, nearly 300 individual and fleet owners filed an amended complaint that sought to make GM recall the “rolling firebombs” or pay for repairs. The claimants also moved to certify a nationwide class of approximately 5.7 million members, owners of 6.3 million trucks that had not yet had fuel-tank mishaps. About four months into discovery as to class-certification issues only, the named claimants and GM agreed to a settlement. GM would give each class member a $1,000 coupon or issue a third party a $500 coupon redeemable for 15 months toward the purchase of a new truck. The court provisionally certified the settlement class and approved sending putative class members a combined notice of the class action and the proposed settlement. The notice omitted that GM had agreed to pay the claimants’ attorneys nearly $9.5 million. Over 5,200 owners opted out of the class, and approximately 6,500 objected to the settlement, particularly fleet owners with more than 1,000 trucks each. After the claimants’ expert valued the certificates at about $2 billion based on 36 percent of owners redeeming $1,000 certificates and 11 percent selling $500 certificates, the court confirmed class certification and approved the settlement. Numerous objectors appealed challenging the fairness and reasonableness of the settlement, claiming it was a sophisticated GM marketing program.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Becker, J.)

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