Corvette Z06 2017

Another auto defect class action with well-known lawyers is gaining speed in the Southern District of Florida.

Owners of the latest models of the Corvette Z06 are suing General Motors, alleging the sports car has a design defect that causes the engine to overheat when the driver hits racing speeds.

“They put a premium on the size to keep it aerodynamic and small and sleek, when the area in which the engine is housed is inadequate to give it proper ventilation,” said plaintiffs lawyer Stuart Grossman of Grossman Roth Yaffa Cohen in Coral Gables. “It’s terribly uncomplicated.”

General Motors declined to comment on the litigation. The company is represented by Miami attorney Paul Schwiep of Coffey Burlington and Washington lawyers April Ross, Jared Levine and Kathleen Sooy from Crowell & Moring.

Grossman is working with Seattle attorney Steve Berman of Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro, a heavy hitter who led negotiations with Toyota in the sudden acceleration litigation that ended in a $1.6 billion settlement.

The pair has a similar case against Ford in Miami federal court over the Shelby GT350 Mustang, also a sleek luxury car the plaintiffs allege overheats at high speeds.

Also representing the plaintiffs is Jason Weisser of Schuler, Halvorson, Weisser & Zoeller in West Palm Beach, who owns the Corvette Z06 and said he has experienced the defect in his car. The allegations cover the 2015, 2016 and 2017 models.

The General Motors case is before U.S. District Judge Darrin Gayles, who received the defendant’s motion to dismiss last month. Among other things, the company argues the plaintiffs all bought their cars from independent dealers.

“Plaintiffs thus cannot allege a duty to disclose because they did not have, and do not allege, any direct relationship with GM,” the Sept. 25 motion to dismiss argues.

Grossman said the claims involve General Motors dealers who could not offer a repair or replacement for the plaintiffs’ cars.

“Unlike air bag litigation, where there could be numerous factors involved in that, this whole thing is contained under the GM umbrella, and that’s why there’s only one defendant,” he said. “One corporation is responsible for the design, manufacture, sale and repair of the product.”

General Motors argues the plaintiffs may not have been using the car the way it was intended to be used.

“The Z06 is not a race car, and like any vehicle it has limitations … Its performance, especially at top speeds, also depends heavily on the driver’s skill and attention,” the motion to dismiss argues. “The Z06 owner’s manual gives detailed instructions for track driving. There is no allegation that any of these plaintiffs followed these instructions.”

The Southern District of Florida has been home to a number of high-profile auto defect cases in recent years, including the Takata air bag litigation, which is now winding down.