— A ZF airbag lawsuit alleges the airbags and seat belts in more than 15 million vehicles may fail to activate because the vehicles are equipped with ZF TRW airbag control units (ACUs) which contain DS84 application-specific integrated circuits (ASICs).
Included in the massive class action lawsuit are ZF TRW, STMicro, Kia, Hyundai, Hyundai MOBIS, Fiat Chrysler, Toyota, Honda and Mitsubishi.
According to the lawsuit, ACUs constantly receive and interpret signals from crash sensors in the front of the vehicles. When the sensors detect an imminent crash, they notify the ACU and the ACU commands the system to deploy the airbags and tighten the seat belts.
A failed ACU means failed airbags and seat belts.
Although ZF TRW manufactures the airbag control units, STMicro makes the microchip DS84 application-specific integrated circuit, the "brain of the ZF TRW ACU. It processes the signal from the crash sensors and activates the airbags and seatbelts."
The plaintiffs claim the ACUs are more vulnerable to electrical overstress, or bursts of electricity, compared to other control units. A crash itself can cause large bursts of electricity to discharge, allegedly rendering the airbag control unit worthless and leaving occupants unprotected in a crash.
ZF TRW and the other defendants have allegedly known about the defective ACUs for at least 10 years but allegedly conspired to conceal the deadly defects.
The plaintiffs allege at least eight deaths are attributed to the ZF TRW ACUs with the DS84 ASICs.
In April 2019, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) opened an investigation into airbag failures caused by ZF TRW airbag control units. The investigation includes more than 12 million vehicles and is ongoing.
The 2019 investigation followed a 2018 federal investigation into 2011 Hyundai Sonata and 2012-2013 Kia Forte airbag failures which killed four people and injured six.
And some of the automakers named in the class action have recalled vehicles due to the ZF TRW airbag control units.
In 2016, Chrysler recalled 1.9 million vehicles after airbag failures killed three people and injured five.
Hyundai recalled nearly 155,000 model year 2011 Sonatas in 2018 following three crashes where the airbags failed to deploy because of electrical shorts inside the airbag control units.
The recall was then expanded to include an additional 580,000 Sonata cars.
In addition, Kia recalled 507,000 Forte, Optima and Sedona vehicles after airbags failed.
The lawsuit, however, alleges about 9 million vehicles weren't recalled but should have been repaired.
The ZF TRW airbag class action lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan: Adams, et al., v. ZF Active Safety and Electronics US LLC, et al.
The plaintiffs are represented by Keller Rohrback L.L.P., Baron & Budd, P.C., Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein, LLP, Ahdoot & Wolfson, PC, Beasley, Allen, Crow, Methvin, Portis & Miles, P.C., Bleichmar Fonti & Auld LLP, Boies Schiller Flexner LLP, Casey Gerry Schenk Francavilla Blatt & Penfield, LLP, DiCello Levitt Gutzler LLC, Kessler Topaz Meltzer & Check LLP, Levi & Korsinsky, LLP, Podhurst Orseck, P.A., Pritzker Levine LLP, Robbins Geller Rudman & Dowd LLP, Robins Kaplan LLP, Seeger Weiss LLP, and Hellmuth & Johnson.