Defense counsel retained Cornerstone Research to support two experts who showed the plaintiffs’ damages models could not reliably estimate damages on a classwide basis.
Retained by Sullivan & Cromwell
Counsel for Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) retained Cornerstone Research in a national class action related to the marketing of certain EcoDiesel Jeep SUVs and Ram trucks. The plaintiffs claimed that the vehicles violated EPA regulations and that the “EcoDiesel” name and branding misrepresented the vehicles to consumers as “environmentally friendly and fuel efficient.” According to the plaintiffs, putative class members had “paid a significant premium” for the allegedly falsely advertised EcoDiesel features.
Cornerstone Research supported two experts who addressed the plaintiffs’ claims. Both experts put forward analyses demonstrating that the damages models proposed by the plaintiffs’ experts could not estimate damages that were consistent with the plaintiffs’ theory of harm and could not reliably estimate damages on a class-wide basis.
Professor Dominique Hanssens, of the University of California, Los Angeles, evaluated the plaintiffs’ proposed conjoint methodology and identified a number of deficiencies. Notably, he showed that plaintiffs’ expert’s proposed methodology could not isolate the effects of the challenged conduct from unrelated confounding factors. Professor Hanssens also provided analysis demonstrating that the proposed conjoint introduced several sources of bias that inflated estimates of reduction in value.
In addition, Professor Hanssens evaluated the plaintiffs’ content analysis of FCA’s advertising, demonstrating a number of significant errors in the analysis. He concluded that the analysis did not support the plaintiffs’ conclusions regarding putative class members’ exposure to or reliance on FCA’s advertising of EcoDiesel features.
Our second expert analyzed market price and sales data and showed that the plaintiffs’ conjoint study predicted market outcomes inconsistent with real-world data. He also evaluated the plaintiffs’ other proposed damages method, which was based on the price premium of EcoDiesel vehicles relative to gasoline-engine models. He found that this method inflated estimated damages because, among other reasons, it attributed the entire amount of the EcoDiesel premium to the at-issue emissions-related features and ignored the value that purchasers placed on features that are not related to emissions, such as fuel economy, torque, towing capacity, and longevity.
The parties settled before the court ruled on class certification.