— A Chevrolet Impala StabiliTrak lawsuit is over after a federal judge ruled car owners didn't adequately plead that General Motors knew about possible defects with the electronic stability control systems.
The GM StabiliTrak class action lawsuit alleges 2010-2016 Chevy Impala and 2014-2016 Chevy Impala Limited cars pull to one side (especially while turning), hesitate, jerk, lose power and stall.
GM's StabiliTrak electronic stability control system “proactively help drivers maintain control of their vehicles in situations where the vehicle is beginning to lose directional stability.”
But the plaintiffs allege the StabiliTrak lawsuit is necessary because of defective wheel speed sensor wiring harnesses that suffer premature wear, stress and damage. This allegedly causes erratic signals from the wheel speed sensors and leads to the alleged symptoms.
According to the class action, StabiliTrak problems occur under various driving conditions that create "grave safety dangers" for occupants. Impala owners complain about grinding noise while turning the steering wheels, and some customers say the wheels lock from unintended braking.
Drivers also report illuminated warning lights from the problem that has allegedly been concealed by General Motors.
The plaintiffs claim GM has known about StabiliTrak problems because technical service bulletins (TSBs) were sent to dealerships concerning the systems.
One TSB was issued to dealers in 2008 and titled, “Antilock Brake System (ABS), Traction Control System (TCS), or StabiliTrak(R) Light On, [Diagnostic Trouble Codes] C00035-C0052 Set (Perform Diagnostic Test Procedure and Repair as Necessary).”
According to the bulletin, “Some customers may comment that the Antilock Brake System (ABS), Traction Control System (TCS), or StabiliTrak(R) (if equipped) warning lights are illuminated.”
The TSB instructs technicians in order to resolve the problem with the warning light, they may need to “replace the wheel speed sensor.”
Another TSB was issued in 2014 and another was sent to dealers in 2016, both nearly identical to one another. They both share the same subject line: “Diagnostic Tip – ABS Lamp On With Any Of The Following [Diagnostic Trouble Codes] C0035 C0040 Or Unwanted Traction Control Activation.”
“Some customers may comment on the ABS and/or TCS light being illuminated. This condition may be more easily duplicated while turning.”
The TSBs then instruct technicians to “inspect the front Wheel Speed Sensor (WSS) jumper harnesses for any damage.”
The StabiliTrak class action alleges customer complaints and other internal GM data prove the automaker knew about the allegedly defective systems.
The lawsuit includes claims against GM for fraud, violations of the consumer protection laws of various states, unjust enrichment and breach of implied warranties under state and federal laws.
Concerning claims GM concealed and failed to disclose defects, the judge says the plaintiffs must plead “a manufacturer knew of [the] defect before sale.”
The plaintiffs allege GM had pre-sale knowledge of the StabiliTrak defect as early as 2007 based on customer complaints, technical service bulletins, repair orders and other sources. But the judge ruled the allegations are too vague and the plaintiffs didn't allege facts to show GM knew about possible problems.
The plaintiffs submitted 596 customer complaints that are examples of complaints filed with the government for the 2007-2016 Chevrolet Impalas. The StabiliTrak lawsuit insists GM monitored complaints submitted to the government and those complaints demonstrate the StabiliTrak problems were widespread and dangerous.
However, the judge found an entire 63 pages of consumer complaints relate to 2007-2009 Chevrolet Impala cars, and those model year cars are not included in the class action lawsuit.
In addition, the judge ruled "some of the complaints are vague and/or include complaints about issues that are not included in the list of symptoms that Plaintiffs contend are caused by the StabiliTrak Defect."
The judge also ruled the three TSBs "do not support a reasonable inference that GM has pre-sale knowledge of the StabiliTrak Defect. That becomes clear when one contrasts the content of the TSBs with Plaintiffs’ own definition of the StabiliTrak Defect."
According to the judge, the TSBs do not mention any of the safety hazards talked about by the plaintiffs. The 2008 bulletin says only that Impala owners may complain about certain illuminated warning lights.
But the judge says while the TSB does reference the potential need to replace the wheel speed sensor, the TSB does not suggest the faulty sensor interferes in any way with the ability to safely drive the Impala.
The 2014 and 2016 TSBs also do not suggest GM had pre-sale knowledge of alleged StabiliTrak defects because the bulletins don't mention any of the alleged safety hazards listed by the plaintiffs. Additionally, the subject lines don't reference the Impala StabiliTrak systems or the StabiliTrak warning lights.
"Thus, while it may be a plausible inference based on these allegations that GM was aware of some problem with the wheel sensors on the Class Vehicles, these TSBs do not plausibly establish that GM was aware of the specific StabiliTrak Defect plaintiffs have identified." - Judge Matthew F. Leitman
The judge not only granted GM's motion to dismiss the Impala StabiliTrak class action, but did so with prejudice, leaving the plaintiffs barred from amending their lawsuit.
The Chevrolet Impala StabiliTrak lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan, Southern Division: Hall, et al., v. General Motors, LLC.
The plaintiffs are represented by the Miller Law Firm, Greenstone Law APC, and Glancy Prongay And Murray LLP.
CarComplaints.com has owner-reported complaints about the GM cars.