Airbag class action dismissed again, but judge says the plaintiffs can file another one.

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General Motors Airbag Class Action Lawsuit Dismissed
Airbag class action dismissed again, but judge says the plaintiffs can file another one.

— A GM airbag class action lawsuit has been dismissed again, but the judge once again ruled the plaintiffs could amend and refile their lawsuit.

On August 17, 2021, 72 named plaintiffs, three from California and 69 from other states, filed the General Motors airbag class action lawsuit asserting millions of vehicles are equipped with airbags that don't deploy properly.

In October 2021, the plaintiffs filed their first amended class action that was dismissed by the judge. The judge dismissed all the non-California plaintiffs for lack of jurisdiction, which left the three California plaintiffs.

Plaintiffs James Milstead, Arthur Ray and Richard Vargas filed their second amended lawsuit in January 2023 on behalf of California customers of GM trucks and SUVs model years 1999-2018.

The airbag lawsuit alleges the air control units, or sensing and diagnostic modules, have defects which, “prematurely close the time window to engage airbags and seatbelts in a crash, putting occupants of the Class Vehicles in serious danger.”

According to the class action, “the software program that controls the SDM is calibrated in such a way that it prevents airbag and seatbelt deployment just 45 milliseconds after a crash has begun.”

GM allegedly knew about the modules but concealed the alleged problems from the public.

The class action describes the sensing and diagnostic module as a computer for the seat belt and airbag system that has an electronic control unit that receives sensor inputs, and an "algorithm determines whether to deploy the airbags in the event of a crash."

The class action alleges there is a defect in the module software which is used to activate the airbags and seat belt pretensioners.

But the plaintiffs claim a defect cuts off at “45 milliseconds,” which “refers to the value as calculated in the software, as opposed to 45 milliseconds in linear time."

In other words, the airbag lawsuit alleges a defect disables the front GM airbags 45 to 50 milliseconds after impact.

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.

GM Airbag Class Action Lawsuit Dismissed

GM told Judge Jon S. Tigar all the claims fail because the plaintiffs "have not plausibly alleged a defect." Specifically, GM contends the plaintiffs have not adequately pleaded the alleged safety defect “from 1999 continued for decades and existed in their own 2010 and 2012 vehicles.”

The judge agreed and found the plaintiffs describe the alleged airbag defect one way in one version of the lawsuit, but elsewhere the alleged defect is described in another way.

"There are two problems with Plaintiffs’ defect definition. The first is that it is not uniform: if the software were the same in all the vehicles across the class period, one would expect the cut-off times to be the same or substantially similar. As just stated, however, the cut-off times vary widely." — Judge Tigar

In dismissing the lawsuit, the judge did so without prejudice for "failure to allege a plausible claim."

However, the judge ruled the plaintiffs could amend and refile the GM airbag class action lawsuit.

The General Motors class action was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California: James Milstead, et al., v. General Motors LLC, et al.


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