Class-action lawsuit bought against Caterpillar

DETROIT – A U.S. District Judge recently certified a national class-action lawsuit against Caterpillar Inc. that potentially affects more than 7,000 Caterpillar marine engines produced since 1996 and could result in damages in excess of $100 million, the Detroit News reported in a story on its Web site this weekend.

The suit alleges certain Caterpillar engines contain defective aftercoolers, which allow water to enter the engines and mix with fumes, resulting in severe corrosion and engine failure, sometimes involving the engine exploding, the newspaper reported.

Caterpillar denies the allegations.

“We have requested an appeal of the certification decision,” company spokeswoman Anne Leanos said in a prepared statement Friday quoted in the article. “We will continue to defend the case vigorously.”

The main focus of the suit is the Caterpillar 3196, which the company has described as the ideal engine for yachts 40 to 60 feet long, according to the newspaper.

The suit was brought by Detroit businessman James Jaikins, who alleges that his Riviera 48 yacht contained two Caterpillar 3196 engines when a 2003 engine explosion and failure nearly stranded him between Florida and the Bahamas.

Jaikins says that when he started talking to other boat owners, he found his experience was not unique, alleging problems with the engines are the subject of widespread “dock talk” and are documented on Internet forums, the newspaper reported.

Jaikins’ attorney, Nathan Resnick, said the lawsuit was “a major consumer protection case – huge,” according to the newspaper.

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