Jeep Hack Suit: Consumer Claims In, Injury Risk Claims Out

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By Julie A. Steinberg

Sept. 26 — Chrysler must face would-be class claims by consumers alleging cybersecurity vulnerabilities lowered the value of their vehicles ( Flynn v. FCA US LLC , 2016 BL 315226, S.D. Ill., No. 15-855, 9/23/16 ).

But the automaker, now known as FCA US LLC, and infotainment system maker Harmon International Industries Inc. won dismissal of claims alleging buyers face an injury risk because hackers could seize control of moving vehicles.

The Sept. 23 ruling allowing some claims to proceed comes as another automaker, Tesla Motors Inc., took steps to address hacking vulnerabilities in some of its vehicles.

Sufficient Injury Exists.

The suit in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois followed a July 2015 report in Wired Magazine about so-called white-hat software developers’ remote hack of a Jeep through its internet-connected “infotainment” system.

Within days of the report, the automaker announced a recall of 1.4 million vehicles, but plaintiffs say the recall didn’t fix fundamental design flaws.

The plaintiffs have standing, or a basis, to bring claims that they overpaid for the vehicles and that the alleged security flaws caused a drop in resale value, the court said.

But they lack standing to bring claims stemming from fear of future harm, the court said.

The plaintiffs are too removed from the chain of events that would have to occur for serious injury to befall them, the court said.

This isn’t like a data breach case where cybercriminals have stolen credit data they are likely to use in the future, the court said.

Here, there’s no allegation that a real-world hack has caused injury through the uConnect system, and no suggestion that knowledgeable hackers take advantage of these types of vulnerabilities to harm drivers, the court said.

Armstrong Teasdale represents the plaintiffs.

Thompson Coburn LLP represents FCA.

Foley & Lardner LLP represents Harman.

To contact the reporter on this story: Julie A. Steinberg in Washington at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Steven Patrick at

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