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Magistrate Sison recuses in Jeep Wrangler sludge class action

Lawsuits

By Record News | Jun 21, 2019


EAST ST. LOUIS – For the second time, U.S. Magistrate Judge Gilbert Sison stepped away from a class action against Chrysler. 

He signed a recusal order on June 12, in a suit alleging that sludge damaged heating and cooling systems of Jeep Wranglers in model years 2012 to 2017. 

Sison directed the court clerk to reassign it by random draw, and the clerk assigned it to Magistrate Judge Mark Beatty. 


Eric Johnson

Eric Johnson, from John Simmons’s firm in Alton, filed the suit for Chris Hanusek of Monroe County last year. 

Greg Coleman of Knoxville, Tenn., also appeared for Hanusek. 

At first, magistrate judge Stephen Williams presided over discovery for District Judge Nancy Rosenstengel. 

In November, Hanusek moved to postpone all deadlines by six months. 

Chrysler moved to strike the motion, claiming Hanusek violated a scheduling order by filing the motion without making any effort to confer about it. 

Williams didn’t stick around to settle the dispute. 

He and magistrate judge Donald Wilkerson resigned at year’s end, and Sison and Beatty replaced them. 

Sison took charge of discovery in the sludge suit and a suit claiming hackers could seize control of Jeep Cherokees through UConnect electronic devices. 

On Jan. 17, in the sludge suit, Sison signed an order preserving confidentiality for Chrysler documents. 

At a hearing on Jan. 22, he granted Hanusek’s scheduling motion. 

On Feb. 28, he convened his first hearing in the hacking suit. 

He advised counsel that he realized he was acquainted with the plaintiff, Belleville city attorney Brian Flynn. 

He said Flynn contacted him after his selection as magistrate judge and offered to throw a happy hour reception for him. He said the notion caused him a little discomfort. 

Sison recused himself on March 5, and Magistrate Judge Reona Daly replaced him. 

In the sludge suit, Hanusek amended the complaint in April and Chrysler moved to dismiss it in May. 

Chrysler counsel Kathy Wisniewski, from Thompson Coburn in St. Louis, wrote, “Plaintiff’s claim is simply implausible.” 

Wisniewski wrote that opposing counsel filed six class actions with 18 plaintiffs. 

She wrote that three actions remained and 14 plaintiffs abandoned their claims. 

She wrote that many things could cause sludge besides the chemical reaction that plaintiffs blamed, including poor maintenance, a cracked head, or a bad gasket. 

On June 5, Mitchell Breit of the Simmons firm moved to extend all deadlines. 

The motion remained pending as of June 18. 

Rosenstengel has set trial to start next April 1.  

In Flynn’s hacking suit, district judge Michael Reagan certified a class action. 

He retired in March and the clerk assigned Rosenstengel, who recused herself. 

The clerk assigned District Judge Staci Yandle, who has not set trial. 

Former U.S. attorney Stephen Wigginton, Lloyd M. Cueto, Christopher Cueto, and Michael Gras, all at 7110 West Main in Belleville, represent Flynn. 

So do Christopher Baucom and Lucas Pendry from Armstrong Teasdale in Clayton, Missouri, and Charles Steese and IJay Palansky from the firm’s Denver office. 

Wisniewski and associates at Thompson Coburn represent Chrysler in both suits.   

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