AUTOMOTIVE class actions
MLG’s team of trial lawyers is responsible for filing some of the most notable class action cases in the automotive industry – cases which have led to Congressional hearings, Department of Justice investigations and billion-dollar settlements.
Our experienced automotive lawyers have a unique understanding of the nation’s motor vehicle laws, and how they play into the automotive recall system. Under federal law, carmakers are required to immediately recall a vehicle once a safety defect is discovered. Unfortunately, however, many manufacturers fail to discharge this duty, putting the public at significant risk.
MLG has sought to hold these manufacturers responsible by filing automotive class actions, demanding compliance with the recall system and seeking punitive damages to prevent future misconduct. Our cases have involved millions of vehicles across multiple manufacturers, and have had a substantial impact on increasing corporate responsibility and promoting public safety.
notable MLG class actions
ZF-TRW AIRBAG CONTROL UNIT
Automakers Kia, Hyundai, and FCA (Fiat-Chrysler) recalled approximately 12.3 million vehicles due to faulty airbag control units (ACU), which posed the risk failing to engage the airbags in the event of a collision. The same defect is also linked to Toyota, Acura, Honda, Mitsubishi, Porsche, and Volkswagen vehicles. On July 15, 2019, MLG’s auto lawyers filed a class action lawsuit against seven auto manufacturers and the ACU manufacturer, ZF TRW Automotive Holdings Corp., relating to this massive recall. The lawsuit, entitled Baldwin v. Kia (Case No. 8:19-cv-01376), was filed in Federal Court.
Under National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) regulations, a manufacturer has five days to report a known safety defect. In 2018 NHTSA launched an investigation into the matter, only to find out that ZF-TRW had been having in-depth discussions with manufacturers about the defective ACU since at least 2011.
In April 2019, NHTSA elevated the investigation to an Engineering Analysis and expanded the scope of the investigation to include other manufacturers who had installed the ZF-TRW made ACU in their production vehicles. At its early investigation stages, NHTSA has confirmed that the defective ACU has been linked to at least four deaths; however, NHTSA complaint logs confirm that many more fatalities have been reported to NHTSA that are still under investigation.
GM IGNITION SWITCH FRAUD
In early 2014, General Motors recalled approximately 800,000 vehicles due to faulty ignition switches, which posed the risk of spontaneously shutting off the vehicle’s engine during normal operation. On March 21, 2014, MLG’s auto lawyers filed a class action lawsuit against General Motors relating to this massive recall. The lawsuit, entitled Martin Ponce v. General Motors (Case No. CV14-2161), was filed in Federal Court in Los Angeles.
In February 2014, GM issued a recall of 1.4 million U.S. vehicles that used the faulty part. The ignition switch is prone to shutting off unexpectedly, leaving the driver without power to the car, and cutting off power steering, power brakes and airbags. GM has admitted that the faulty ignition switch has killed numerous consumers.
Under National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) regulations, a manufacturer has five days to report a known safety defect. GM has admitted that it waited nearly a decade to recall their defective ignition switches. In September 2015, federal prosecutors imposed a $900 million fine against GM for concealing the deadly defect.
VOLKSWAGEN EMISSIONS SCANDAL
The Volkswagen emission scandal surfaced in September 2015, when Volkswagen admitted that it had been falsifying emissions data for nearly 500,000 diesel cars sold in the U.S., and that it had instructed its software engineers to develop a sophisticated “defeat device” that would conceal the vehicles’ true emissions levels from regulators.
Days after the emission scandal broke, on September 25, 2015, MLG filed a class action lawsuit against Volkswagen for the diesel emissions cover-up. The case, entitled Gregg Klein v. Volkswagen Group of America, Inc. (Case No. 2:15-cv-07570), was filed in Federal Court in Los Angeles and sought to hold Volkswagen responsible for its admitted fraud.
APPLE TEXTING AND DRIVING
On January 17, 2017, MLG’s team of auto lawyers filed a class action lawsuit against Apple Inc., to address the extremely serious problem of texting and driving which endangers the lives of tens of millions of people every day. The case was filed in state court in Los Angeles, and is entitled Julio Ceja v. Apple, Inc. (Case No. BC 647057.)
According to the National Safety Council, cell phone usage was responsible for 26% of all car accidents in the United States in 2014, making it the single most dangerous thing one can do while operating an automobile. Apple has long known of the dangers associated with the use of their phones, going to far as to file a patent in 2008 for a “lock-out mechanism” to disable texting while driving. But to date they have done nothing to deploy the “lock-out” technology. It is time for Apple to step up and use its technology to protect consumers from an epidemic its technology and innovation created.
HYUNDAI AND KIA POWER WINDOW DEFECT
On October 29, 2019, MLG filed a class action lawsuit against Hyundai and Kia, to address the threat to life and limb caused by the power windows in these vehicles. The case was filed in California state court, and is entitled McCready v. Hyundai Motor America (Case No. 30-2019-01108261-CU-MC-CXC).
Federal regulations require power windows systems in all vehicles manufactured after 2008 to have a “stop-and-reverse” safety feature that is intended to prevent fingers and hands from being severed by the powerful motors that close automatic windows.
The class action alleges that Hyundai and Kia vehicles have stop-and-reverse systems, but that the power windows greatly exceed the maximum closing force allowable by federal law. According to the complaint, the force of the power windows is so great that vehicle occupants are at risk of losing fingers or hands, and even their lives by getting heads or necks stuck in the closing power windows.
UBER FRAUDULENT BUSINESS PRACTICES
As the company was beginning to build momentum, ride-share sensation Uber was alleged to have made numerous misrepresentations to the public about the safety of its driver background checks. On January 26, 2015, MLG filed a class action lawsuit against Uber for fraudulent business practices. The lawsuit, entitled Jacob Sabatino v. Uber Technologies, Inc. (Case No. 3:15-cv-00363), was filed in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.
The lawsuit alleges that Uber made numerous misrepresentations about the safety of its ride-share services, including falsely claiming that it conducts “industry-leading” background checks on its drivers. The lawsuit also claimed that Uber provides no training for its drivers, other than a 13-minute instructional video on how to use the Uber app, and that Uber failed to ensure that vehicle safety inspections were actually conducted by a service facility.
MLG also claimed that Uber violated a litany of regulations promulgated by the California Public Utilities Commission, such as failing to provide training for its drivers and failing to have specific trade-dress for its vehicles. In November 2012, Uber was fined $20,000 by the Public Utilities Commission for functioning “without an operating authority.”
BMW i3 RANGE EXTENDER
BMW’s new all electric vehicle, the i3 REx, is alleged to contain a faulty and dangerous “range extender” feature. On May 17, 2016, MLG filed a class action lawsuit against BMW for these defects in the 2014 to 2016 models. The case was filed in Federal Court in Los Angeles, and is entitled Edo Tsoar v. BMW of North America, LLC (Case No. 2:16-cv-03386).
The BMW i3 is BMW’s first zero emissions mass-produced vehicle. The BMW i3 REx model includes an optional “fuel extender” – a two-cylinder gasoline combustion engine with a small fuel tank that engages when the battery level drops to five percent. BMW advertises that the fuel extender acts as a generator to produce electricity, doubling the mileage range of the vehicle.
BMW failed to advise consumers, however, that when the fuel extender is activated, the vehicle is unable to maintain the power, speed and performance of normal operation. Such a decrease in power is dangerous, not only to drivers and passengers of the vehicle, but to all vehicles in surrounding traffic. The potentially life-threatening defect affects all 2014 to 2016 BMW i3 REx model vehicles.
TOYOTA SOY-BASED WIRING
In the mid-2000s, Toyota began replacing its plastic wire coverings with a soy-based product. The move was intended to be more environmentally friendly, but it had a very disastrous side effect: the soy materials invited rodents to chew through the insulation, causing severe damage to vehicles’ electrical system. Despite the fact that Toyota is aware of the defect, Toyota routinely refuses to repair the vehicles under warranty, instead passing the cost of the repair onto vehicle owners.
On September 9, 2016, MLG’s team of auto lawyers filed a class action lawsuit against Toyota for the damage that has been caused to millions of Toyota cars, trucks and SUVs that contain this soy-based wiring. The case was filed in federal court in Los Angeles, and is entitled Leslie Cochrane v. Toyota Motor Corporation (Case No. 8:16-cv-01679).
KIA FUEL ECONOMY FRAUD
MLG’s team of auto lawyers sought to hold Kia responsible for their false statements regarding Kia’s purported fuel efficiency. On January 9, 2013, MLG filed a class action lawsuit against Kia, alleging the car company misrepresented the gas mileage capabilities of certain 2011-2013 model vehicles. The case was filed in federal court in Orange County, and is entitled Herbert J. Young v. Kia Motors America, Inc. (Case No. cv13-00167.)
Kia Motors engaged in an extensive advertising campaign throughout the United States capitalizing on the trend toward more eco-friendly and fuel-efficient vehicles by telling consumers their cars achieved gas mileage in the range of 40 miles per gallon. Kia later acknowledged it had been lying to regulators and the public and that none of the relevant vehicles actually reached the 40 MPG threshold.
MLG filed a class action alleging Unfair Competition and False Advertising, as well as violations of the Consumer Legal Remedies Act and the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act, seeking compensation for consumers damaged by Kia’s false claims, and to ensure the automotive giant does not deceive consumers in the future.
MASERATI’S DEFECTIVE LOCKING SYSTEM
Maserati North America, Inc. was faced with a class action filed by MLG for its 2014 to 2016 model year Ghibli vehicles equipped with a defect that allows the key fob to be locked inside the vehicle without a way to unlock it, creating a dangerous situation if a pet or child is locked inside the car. The case was filed on May 19, 2016, in Federal Court in the Central District of California, and is entitled Elsayed v. Maserati North America, Inc. (Case No. 8:16-cv-00918).
Maserati Ghibli’s Passive Entry System allows drivers to lock and unlock the vehicle’s doors without having to press a button on a key fob. The Passive Entry System, however, contains a serious defect: despite assurances that precautions exist to prevent the inadvertent locking of the keys in the vehicle, instances have occurred where the vehicles’ key fob is located inside the vehicle, and a rear passenger (such as a small child) is able to lock the driver outside of the vehicle, trapping the child inside. Maserati’s production of the Ghibli, a vehicle that will allow a child to lock himself in the vehicle, with no means of extracting him, is a serious threat to the child’s life.
FREQUENTLY asked QUESTIONS
Quite possibly, yes. The test is whether you were injured because of a defect in the vehicle, not whether the vehicle was recalled. The injury needs to be the result of the defect in the vehicle, as opposed to other outside factors, such as actions of other drivers or your mistake. If the defect caused a fatality, there may be a wrongful death claim or wrongful death suit that can be filed. Ask our team of auto lawyers for advice.
Each state has a “statute of limitations” that indicates how long parties have to file a lawsuit. The time limitations vary from state to state based on your claim, and there may be factors that can extend the time to file. Even if your accident occurred a long time ago, you may still have the ability to file a lawsuit. Contact our team of auto lawyers, and we can review the motor vehicle law of your state to see if you can pursue a claim.
After you contact us, our team of auto lawyers will review the motor vehicle laws of your state, and determine the strength of your potential wrongful death suit or wrongful death claim. If we decide that it is in your best interest to pursue a wrongful death suit, we will offer to file a claim on your behalf on a contingency fee basis. A “contingency fee” is an amount that will be freely negotiated between us and you (it is not set by law) that will allow us to get paid at the end of the case out of the total recovery. If we decide you should move forward with your wrongful death suit, we would also pay for all the expenses on the case, and also recover these expenses out of the ultimate recovery. You will need a strong wrongful death attorney to evaluate the claim.
In the event our auto lawyers are unsuccessful in obtaining a recovery for you on your wrongful death suit, you will owe us nothing for our time, and you will not be required to reimburse us for any expenses incurred on the matter. If we don’t win, you don’t pay.
A class action is a lawsuit brought against a company by someone who has a claim that is similar to others’ claims. The person who brings the lawsuit is called the “class representative,” and that person is responsible for continuing the case on behalf of all others similarly situated. You will need a strong consumer protection attorney or automotive defects attorney to advise you on the nature of the claim.
If a recovery is received, either by settlement or through trial, the net funds are distributed to all class members. You may have experienced this over the years, where you receive a class action check in the mail that you were not expecting. That would have been your share of the recovery for that case.
Only one person is needed to start a class action. Once our auto attorneys identify a person who has been impacted by the event (for example, identifying a person who owns one of the recalled cars), we have the ability to file the class action. The person who brings the lawsuit is the “class representative,” and the case is brought on behalf of all others similarly situated. If the defect is serious enough, there may also be potential wrongful death suit or wrongful death claims separately filed.
If multiple class action lawsuits are brought at the same time by different law firms, the court may consolidate them into one case.
Generally speaking, when someone else files a class action, and you are similarly situated (that is, you have the same type of claim), you will automatically become part of the class unless you “opt out” of the case. You may have received notices like this from time to time, asking if you would like to opt out of a class action. If you elect to opt out, you will not be part of the class, and you would be able to file your claim by yourself. A knowledgeable consumer protection attorney can advise you on the manner in which the case will proceed.
No. Class action cases are to recover economic damages that are similar to the class as a whole. If you have been injured by a defective vehicle, or if you have a wrongful death claim for a family member who was killed by a defective vehicle, you would need to file an individual lawsuit. This case would be specific to you, and would compensate you for your direct injuries. These types of claims can be valuable, and can include past and future medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, loss of consortium and punitive damages. A knowledgeable wrongful death attorney can help you evaluate the claim.
MLG does not charge the class representative a fee for filing the case, and we advance the expenses involved in the case. We get paid by asking the court to allow us to collect our fees and expenses from the recovery in the case. In the event we are unsuccessful in obtaining a recovery, you will owe us nothing for our time, and you will not be required to reimburse us for any expenses incurred on the matter.
The following is a list of just some of the class action lawsuits that you may recognize that have resolved in recent years:
- VW Emission Fraud – $14.7 billion
- Toyota unintended acceleration – $1.6 billion
- Exxon Valdez oil spill – $5 billion
- Enron stock fraud – $7.2 billion
- World Com stock fraud – $6.2 billion
These results are based on the unique facts and circumstances of these particular cases, and are not in any way indicative of future results. No representation or guarantee of any kind – express or implied – is made as to the financial recovery that will be achieved in any future case. The recovery, if any, of any future matter will be based on the unique facts and circumstances of that particular case, and nothing else.