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IS BMW FORCING OWNERS TO SECRECY ABOUT DEFECTIVE AIR BAGS?

This article is from our archives and has not been updated and integrated with our "new" site yet... Even so, it's still awesome - so keep reading!

Published on Sat, Jul 24, 2004

By: The LACar Editorial Staff

LAWSUIT CLAIMS BMW SUV AIR BAGS DEFECTIVE

A lawsuit out of Miami is claiming that BMW X5 sport utility vehicles have defective air bags that deploy for no reason. The fact that the SUV's air bags might be defective is not that newsworthy. What is newsworthy is that the lawsuit is claiming the German carmaker's US subsidiary requires owners to agree to secrecy before performing free repairs. The lawsuit is seeking national class-action status. AP's Catherine Wilson reports that the plaintiff, Lisa Vale, asserts she suffered a chemical burn on her left arm when the driver's side bag exploded with a blinding puff of white powder as she was driving on a busy thoroughfare south of Miami in April. Vale also claims that her 2001 BMW was still under warranty, but the dealer who sold her mother the SUV planned to charge her $3,840 for repairs if she refused to sign a confidentiality agreement, according to the Associated Press report. "She balked, took the X5 to another dealership for less expensive repairs and sued Friday in Florida state court in Miami-Dade County," said the AP's Wilson. Vale's attorneys called a news conference Wednesday to announce the lawsuit covering the 2001-2004 model years. "There's no problem with air bag deployment in these vehicles that we're aware of," BMW spokesman David Buchko said. Buchko said there was evidence of impact damage on Vale's SUV, and he had no comment on the request for confidentiality, said Wilson. Vale's attorneys evidently deny that her X5  sustained any impact damage. According to the AP report, the lawsuit seeks money for the cost of repairs, towing, depreciation, lost use of the vehicle and lost personal time. It also seeks court orders to force BMW to honor its warranties, inspect air bags, perform any needed repairs, ban the confidentiality agreements and cancel any signed agreements. Vale's attorneys contend the confidentiality form violates Florida's 1990 Sunshine in Litigation Act barring secrecy about public hazards and the company is violating a state law banning deceptive business practices.   The Associated Press says BMW ordered two recalls to reprogram side air bag controllers on its 3-Series cars built between 1998 and 2001. Federal regulators opened an investigation in 2002 after reports of 41 injuries, 265 complaints and 212 warranty claims. 

This article appeared originally as an LA CAR Blog entry. To view the current Blog, go to the home page and scroll down to the LA CAR Blog.

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