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A group of plaintiffs recently filed a class-action lawsuit against General Motors LLC seeking damages for a malfunctioning Sensing and Diagnostic Module (SDM), which controls the airbag and seatbelt system. They seek to represent all others similarly situated who purchased GM vehicles with this defective system and thus put themselves at risk of serious injury in a crash.

GM Vehicles Contain Defective Software that Blocks Airbag Deployment

The SDM system is a computer that receives sensor inputs and determines whether to deploy the airbags in the event of a crash. Engineers from Delphi Automotive Systems developed the system in the late 1990s, and Delphi has continued to manufacture it for GM throughout the past two decades.

The plaintiffs state that the system in the class vehicles (GM trucks and SUVs purchased after July 10, 2009) contains a dangerous defect in the software. When operating correctly, the system engages the airbags and/or seatbelt pre-tensioners based on pre-programmed algorithms and thresholds.

The defective software, however, also contains a calibration not to deploy the airbags should the time for deployment pass, causing a “dead zone” where the airbags and/or seatbelts will not deploy despite further impacts or collisions.

This defect can manifest during specific accidents triggering this dead zone, such as those involving multiple impacts or accidents that become more severe with time, causing the airbags and seatbelts not to deploy. This deprives the occupants of life-saving protection.

GM Fails to Recall or Repair Defective Software

The plaintiffs state that GM decided to design this software to prematurely close the window for airbag deployment against concerns voiced by Delphi engineers. In recent years, despite increased knowledge of how airbag systems work, GM continued to use the defective software without correcting the issue.

The National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration (NHTSA) has received hundreds of complaints where the airbags and/or seatbelts failed to deploy in the class vehicles during frontal crashes. A separate NHTSA dataset reveals that from 1999 to the present, thousands of individuals have been killed or injured in a frontal collision in which the airbags did not deploy in one of these vehicles.

The plaintiffs go on to note that despite its knowledge of this defect and its impact on safety, GM has failed to recall or repair the class vehicles, “presumably to avoid the significant costs and inconveniences of recalling and/or repairing millions of vehicles.”

Plaintiffs Claim Their Vehicles Have Lost Value

The plaintiffs involved in this case all purchased GM vehicles affected by this SDM system. They state that the value of these vehicles has diminished as a result of the software defect and that they would not have purchased the vehicles had they known about the problem.

They want GM to repair or replace the faulty SDM system in all class vehicles, and/or to buy back the vehicles and fully reimburse the owners for all costs and economic losses.

 

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