— A General Motors class action lawsuit alleges thousands of people have been killed or injured because the airbags and seat belt pretensioners failed in crashes.
The GM lawsuit alleges the airbags failed because of defects in the airbag control units, also called the sensing and diagnostic modules.
According to the class action:
"The 'Class Vehicles' include all vehicles in the United States, including but not limited to General Motors trucks and SUVs, that contain the SDM System Defect that were either: (1) manufactured, sold, distributed, or leased by General Motors; or (2) manufactured, sold, distributed, or leased by Old GM and purchased or leased by Plaintiff or a Class member after July 10, 2009, including but not limited to, General Motors trucks and SUVs."
The GM class action lawsuit was filed by plaintiffs William J. Endress, Lee Ford, Gary Clark and Ira Bondsteel, all who claim millions of GM owners are at risk of injuries and deaths.
The plaintiffs say the sensing and diagnostic module is a computer for the seat belt and airbag system which contains an electronic control unit that receives sensor inputs, and an "algorithm determines whether to deploy the airbags in the event of a crash."
But the class action alleges there is a defect in the module software which is used to activate the airbags and seat belt pretensioners. The software also contains a calibration not to deploy the airbags should the deployment window pass.
This allegedly causes what the class action lawsuit calls a "dead zone" where the airbags and pretensioners won't deploy even if additional collisions occur.
The GM lawsuit alleges any crash involving multiple impacts can cause failures of the seat belt pretensioners and airbags.
The lawsuit alleges more than 800 complaints have been filed with the government about airbag failures during frontal crashes. Additionally, the class action alleges government data show thousands of people have been injured or killed since 1999 in crashes where the airbags failed to deploy.
According to the plaintiffs, GM knows about the sensing and diagnostic problems but won't do anything about the millions of vehicles due to the associated expense.
The alleged defect can occur in a frontal crash where multiple impacts are involved, such as when a car hits a curb, then hits a tree. The defect manifests in some in frontal crashes that last for 45 milliseconds or longer and require airbag deployment or seat belt pretensioners after 45 milliseconds.
Court documents say General Motors should offer "a comprehensive program to repair or replace the SDM [sensing and diagnostic module] System in all Class Vehicles, and/or buyback all Class Vehicles, and to fully reimburse and make whole all members of the Class for all costs and economic losses."
The GM class action lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New Jersey: Endress, et al., v. General Motors LLC, et al.
The plaintiffs are represented by Seeger Weiss LLP, Carella, Byrne, Cecchi, Olstein, Brody & Agnello, P.C., Beasley, Allen, Crow, Methvin, Portis, & Miles, P.C., and Kessler Topaz Meltzer & Check, LLP.
General Motors has suffered from airbag control unit problems in the past because a sensing a diagnostic module recall was announced in 2018 for certain GMC vehicles. And before that the automaker recalled 4 million vehicles in 2016 after airbag failures.