IS BMW FORCING OWNERS TO SECRECY ABOUT DEFECTIVE AIR BAGS?
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Sat, Jul 24, 2004
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.
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