— A GM class action lawsuit alleges the sensing and diagnostic modules prevent the airbags and seat belt pretensioners from deploying in certain frontal crashes.
According to the class action lawsuit, at least 1,298 people were killed or injured in frontal collisions in which the airbags failed to deploy in GM vehicles. The lawsuit alleges that statistic is based on information from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration from 1999 to the present.
According to the class action:
"The “Class Vehicles” herein include all vehicles in the United States that contain the SDM [sensing and diagnostic module] Calibration Defect that were (1) manufactured, sold, distributed, or leased by Defendants or (2) manufactured, sold, distributed, or leased by Old GM and purchased or leased by Plaintiff or a Class member after July 10, 2009."
The General Motors class action lawsuit was filed by plaintiffs Jamar Chism (2012 Chevrolet Traverse), Ashley DeGruy (2014 Chevrolet Equinox), Kissy Elliott (2014 Chevrolet Traverse), William Garrison (2014 Chevy Silverado), Matthew Mastracci (2014 Chevy Silverado), Arthur Ray (2010 GMC Sierra 2500), Mark Silver (2014 Chevrolet 1500 Express), and Kenith Yates (2014 Chevrolet Silverado LD).
However, none of the plaintiffs allege their GM vehicles experienced any airbag or seat belt failures.
But those plaintiffs allege millions of vehicles are dangerous to drive because the airbags and seat belt pretensioners can fail right when they are needed the most.
The plaintiffs claim the airbag control units are defective, components GM refers to as sensing and diagnostic modules. The GM sensing and diagnostic module commands the airbags to deploy and the seat belts to tighten when the control unit senses a crash.
The GM vehicles are allegedly equipped with airbag control unit software calibrated to prevent the airbags and seat belt pretensioners from deploying 45 milliseconds after a crash has begun. The lawsuit says this is a serious problem where a crash involves multiple impacts and the airbags fail to properly deploy.
The lawsuit alleges occupants will never be protected in certain GM frontal crashes that involve multiple impacts. The class action provides an example where a vehicle first hits a curb and then veers and hits a tree, or a vehicle first hits a speed bump and then crashes into the vehicle in front of it.
These are "concatenated" crashes which involve multiple inputs for the sensing and diagnostic modules to detect during a crash sequence.
"In concatenated crashes, the first part of the incident (hitting a curb) sends the SDM into its “wake up” or “stand by” mode. The initial curb hit does not trigger the airbag or tighten the seatbelt, but the SDM “wakes up” to confirm whether further irregular signals will follow and indicate a need for the seatbelts or airbags." — GM class action lawsuit
The GM airbags and seat belt pretensioners can allegedly only be triggered "within 45 milliseconds of a first, irregular signal. If a second signal occurs after 45 milliseconds, the SDM purposefully, by design, disregards signals that would otherwise trigger airbag deployment."
This, according to the class action lawsuit, results in a "dead zone" beginning just 45 milliseconds into a crash after which occupants are completely vulnerable.
General Motors has recalled millions of vehicles due to problems with the sensing and diagnostic modules, including a recall of 4 million vehicles in 2016. The modules also caused another recall of about 88,000 GMC vehicles in 2018.
The GM class action lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan: Chism, et al., v. General Motors, LLC, et al.
The plaintiffs are represented by the Miller Law Firm, P.C., Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein, LLP, Baron & Budd, P.C., and Birka-White Law Offices.