— A Chrysler active head restraint system lawsuit alleges the headrests suddenly deploy and injure occupants even when the vehicles aren't involved in collisions.
The proposed Florida class-action lawsuit alleges Dodge Avengers and Jeep Cherokees are equipped with active head restraint systems made with defective plastic brackets that crack.
According to the lawsuit, the Fiat Chrysler (FCA US) headrest active head restraint systems are designed to hold an occupant's head during rear-end crashes. Inside the front headrests are two springs that force the headrests to quickly move forward during a collision, allegedly to help protect occupants from whiplash injuries.
But based on what the plaintiffs say, the headrests are prone to deploy under normal driving conditions and smack occupants in their heads.
The allegedly defective piece of plastic holds a short metal rod that is latched into two metal hooks located on the back of the headrest. Those hooks are attached to a sensor that triggers the hooks on the front and back of the headrest when a crash occurs.
As for why the plastic allegedly breaks, the lawsuit blames it on the material of the plastic bracket that cracks due to constant tension and stress forces. Once the plastic bracket fails, the metal rod is torn from it's position and causes the active head restraint headrest to deploy.
In addition to possible injuries, having a driver suddenly punched in the head without warning creates a safety risk to all on the road, something that is allegedly seen in more than 100 complaints made to the government about the Chrysler systems.
The plaintiffs say drivers report injuries to their necks, faces and heads while trying to avoid collisions when the headrests shoot forward. The allegedly inferior plastic bracket can crack at any time and do it without any outward signs of trouble.
According to court documents, the alleged active head restraint system problems have caused 91 complaints to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in the past three years. At least 35 Chrysler owners say the systems activated while driving on highways and 25 incidents allegedly were caused by the plastic brackets.
The plaintiffs claim 15 incidents caused face, neck and head injuries while other owners said the headrests could have made existing medical conditions much worse.
"While driving in the city going 45mph the passengers headrest restraint system randomly exploded/activated, pushing my wife's neck drastically forward. This incident could of caused serious bodily injuries as my wife has a cervical laminectomy due to a spinal cord tumor. This random ejection of the headrest restraint could of ended badly."
Another Chrysler driver said the system originally designed to prevent whiplash allegedly caused his wife to suffer whiplash injuries.
"My wife and I were driving down the road when the passenger side active headrest deployed. When it deployed it hit her in the back of the head and gave her whiplash. I researched it online and it appears that this is a common problem with dodge vehicles. I attempted to reset the spring loaded active headrest to discover that the reason it had deployed is because the plastic retaining pin receiver was broken."
According to the plaintiffs, the active head restraint systems were manufactured and designed with defects that make the vehicles unsafe to drive. Owners also report paying up to $800 for repairs after failed attempts to reset the headrests after they deployed.
Additionally, FCA has allegedly concealed the problems and has refused to recall the vehicles to make permanent repairs.
The plaintiffs claim FCA may talk big in advertisements about safety, but in reality the automaker allegedly ignores the safety issues present in Dodge Avengers and Jeep Cherokees.
Although there are directions online to reset the headrest once it deploys, the plaintiffs claim the already-activated headrest cannot properly be reset once it has failed. This leaves an occupant without the very safety feature designed to protect them in a rear-end crash.
The proposed class-action lawsuit includes all current and former Florida owners and lessees of Dodge Avengers and Jeep Cherokees equipped with active head restraint systems.
The Chrysler active head restraint lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida, Orlando Division - Perez, et al., v. FCA US, LLC.
The plaintiffs are represented by Osborne & Francis, PLLC.