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Chrysler attaches deposition of UConnect lead plaintiff to summary judgment motion

By Record News | Oct 10, 2017

EAST ST. LOUIS – Belleville lawyer Brian Flynn swore as lead plaintiff against Chrysler that he suffered damages from a dangerous defect in his Jeep, yet testified that he kept driving it and took parents, girlfriend, and others along without warning them. 

According to Chrysler, his conduct should put to rest his claim that he drives in constant fear of hackers seizing control of his Jeep. 

“Flynn plans to keep the vehicle for at last three more years,” Chrysler counsel Kathy Wisniewski wrote in a motion for summary judgment on Oct. 5. 

Wisniewski wrote that Flynn never canceled a trip to avoid driving his Grand Cherokee. 

She wrote that he didn’t respond to a Chrysler recall until after his deposition 

She also wrote that he recently installed a device so his insurer can track his vehicle. 

“He does not know whether the device subjects his vehicle to hacking,” she wrote. 

Flynn made the statements at a deposition in July 2016, but the transcript had remained confidential until Wisniewski attached it to Chrysler’s motion for summary judgment.

He sued Chrysler at U.S. district court in 2015, after Wired magazine reported that researchers controlled a Jeep through a UConnect information system. 

Flynn also sued UConnect maker Harman International Industries. 

He alleges negligence, misrepresentation, unjust enrichment, and violations of state and federal warranty laws. His lawsuit further alleges double damage on the Jeep’s value, first when he overpaid for it and later when he would sell it. 

He seeks to recover for risk of harm or fear of risk. 

He also is petitioning for a national recall, accusing Chrysler of conducting a faulty one. 

In June 2016, answering interrogatories, he stated that he bought the Jeep for about $42,000 in 2013, at the Federico dealership in Wood River. 

He stated that he didn’t allege that his vehicle was hacked. 

“Plaintiff remains concerned, disappointed, and frustrated regarding the possibility that his vehicle is vulnerable to hacking and control by third parties,” the suit alleges. 

In July 2016, Chrysler counsel Stephen D’Aunoy deposed Flynn at the office of his counsel, Michael Gras, in Belleville. 

D’Aunoy asked Flynn what the case was about. 

“That the UConnect system is faulty and that it’s susceptible to hacking and that somebody could take over my vehicle and create a dangerous situation,” Flynn said. 

D’Aunoy asked what kind of lock his apartment had, and Flynn said it was a code. 

D’Aunoy asked how many apps he had on his phone, and Flynn said dozens. 

D’Aunoy asked if he occasionally drove other vehicles. 

Flynn said he might drive his girlfriend’s car or his parents’ car if they needed help. 

D’Aunoy asked his girlfriend’s name, and Flynn said Lucy Lopinot. 

D’Aunoy asked if he knew his lawyers at the time he purchased the Jeep, and Flynn said he knew Mike Gras. 

D’Aunoy asked how he knew him, and Flynn said, “Went to law school together.” 

D’Aunoy asked if anyone else drove the vehicle, and Flynn said his dad. 

D’Aunoy asked when his dad last drove it, and Flynn said, “Probably two and a half years ago, whenever we had that bad snowstorm right around the new year.” 

D’Aunoy asked if anyone else drove it, and Flynn said he was sure friends drove it and his girlfriend drove it once or twice. 

D’Aunoy asked if he drove it to the deposition, and Flynn said he did. 

“When you are driving friends, parents, girlfriend, other passengers, do you give them warnings when they get in the vehicle?” D’Aunoy said. 

Flynn: “About what?” 

D’Aunoy: “About anything.” 

Flynn: “Do I give them warnings? No.” 

D’Aunoy asked the farthest he drove, and Flynn said Cincinnati and Notre Dame. 

D’Aunoy asked what he understood of how UConnect functioned. 

Flynn: “I thought it was really just kind of the touch screen system and you could adjust the air conditioning and the radio. 

“You got the seat warmers. I think the Bluetooth would go through that, stuff like that.” 

D’Aunoy asked what the authors of the Wired article were able to do. 

Flynn: “They were able to, I guess, control, I think, the speed and the brakes, things like that.” 

D’Aunoy asked if he understood the conditions under which they were able to do that, and Flynn said no. 

D’Aunoy asked why he believed the hackability of his vehicle couldn’t be fixed. 

Flynn: “Just generally that everything is already connected and you can’t disconnect it unless you just totally rebuild it.” 

D’Aunoy asked what he meant, and Flynn said, “Like the radio is connected to the speed and the brakes.” 

D’Aunoy asked for other examples. 

Flynn: “It’s my understanding that all the electrical components are part of one system, and a patch just isn’t going to fix it. Specifically, I can’t really explain it.” 

D’Aunoy asked if he knew how much money and time Wired magazine spent to get inside the vehicle’s computer, and Flynn said no. 

D’Aunoy asked if it would make him comfortable if the authors said they couldn’t hack the vehicle today. 

Flynn said no, and D’Aunoy asked why not. 

Flynn: “Just because they couldn’t doesn’t mean someone else couldn’t.” 

D’Aunoy asked if he knew whether it was easier to hack his vehicle or his door lock, and Flynn said he didn’t know. 

D’Aunoy asked if he thought there was anybody who wanted to harm him. 

Flynn: “There might be.” 

D’Aunoy asked why and Flynn said, “I represent, you know, dangerous individuals who have been accused of dangerous crimes. I have had people approach me and threaten me.” 

D’Aunoy asked if they could cut his brake lines, and Flynn said yes. 

D’Aunoy asked if it was easier to cut the brake lines than to hack the vehicle, and Flynn said he had no idea. 

D’Aunoy asked if he would keep the vehicle until he paid off the loan, and Flynn said that was the plan. 

D’Aunoy asked if he understood what the recall remedy did, and Flynn said no. 

D’Aunoy asked why the vehicle didn’t receive the remedy. 

Flynn: “I thought it was weird that it gave me something to, you know, just kind of plug into the car.

“I guess I just wasn’t comfortable putting it in. Another reason was, after discussing with my attorneys, it was my understanding that it didn’t really fix the problem.” 

D’Aunoy asked if he called a number on the recall notice or scheduled a service appointment to update the software, and Flynn said no. 

D’Aunoy asked if he still had the port, and Flynn said, “I think my attorneys have it.” 

D’Aunoy asked if he submitted anything to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, and Flynn said he hadn’t. 

D’Aunoy asked how it came about that he got involved in this lawsuit, and Flynn said, “Mike contacted me.” 

D’Aunoy asked if he agreed to be a plaintiff in the first call, and Flynn said yes. 

D’Aunoy asked if he knew anything other than what was in the Wired article, and Flynn said no. 

D’Aunoy asked if he spoke with Stephen Wigginton, the former U.S. attorney who by then had taken leadership of Flynn’s legal team. 

Flynn said no. 

D’Aunoy asked if he understood how his attorneys might get paid, and Flynn said he had a general idea. 

D’Aunoy asked what that was, and Flynn said, “That your client will pay them.” 

D’Aunoy asked if he had a tracking device, and Flynn said he recently put one in. 

D’Aunoy asked if in exchange, he got lower premiums on his insurance. 

Flynn: “For a little while.” 

D’Aunoy asked if the device affected hackability, and Flynn said he didn’t know. 

D’Aunoy asked if he was damaged in any other way than overpaying, and Flynn said, “Just the fact that I’m always thinking about it.” 

D’Aunoy asked how he would quantify that injury in dollar value, and Flynn said he didn’t know how. 

D’Aunoy asked about discussions with Danielle Federico at the dealership, and Flynn said, “That was shortly after Mike had called me. I called Danielle just to see if maybe she knew other Jeep owners.” 

D’Aunoy asked if she identified any, and Flynn said she didn’t. 

Flynn: “I was really asking if we had any mutual friends. I wasn’t asking her to give me the names of somebody I had never met.” 

D’Aunoy asked why he kept the vehicle, and Flynn said, “I guess I just don’t think I could probably pay off my loan with whatever I could get for it.” 

D’Aunoy: “But you haven’t even investigated that, right?” 

Flynn: “No, I haven’t fully investigated.” 

D’Aunoy asked if he knew when buying computers that they can be hacked, and Flynn said that was right. 

D’Aunoy: “But you buy them anyway?” 

Flynn: “I do.” 

D’Aunoy: “And you pay full retail price.” 

Flynn said yes, and the deposition ended. 

In September 2016, District Judge Michael Reagan dismissed Flynn’s petition for a national recall order with prejudice. 

Reagan dismissed negligence claims with prejudice; dismissed the misrepresentation claim and the claim for risk and fear, both without prejudice. 

He further dismissed warranty claims against Harman International without prejudice. 

Flynn amended the complaint again this September, but both defendants claimed he sought to revive claims Reagan dismissed last year. 

Reagan has set trial next May.

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Fiat Chrysler Automobiles Twentieth Judicial Circuit of Illinois