Even protective features in vehicles may malfunction. This class action sues Mercedes-Benz USA, LLC, Daimler AG, and Grammer AG for their headrests. The issue? The complaint claims that the headrests, designed to prevent whiplash, may spring forward on their own, causing injury or creating accidents.
The Nationwide Class for this action is all persons in the US who are current or former owners or lessors of a vehicle made by Mercedes, or any of its subsidiaries or affiliates, which are equipped with headrests contained the defective AHR. The complaint also proposes Consumer Subclasses for Florida, New York, California, and North Carolina.
Mercedes cars are built with headrests that are designed to prevent whiplash. These active head restraints (AHR) are meant to detect a rear-end collision and spring forward rapidly to catch the driver’s head so that it doesn’t complete the whipping motion. These headrests, which Mercedes calls Neck-Pro, are made by Grammer AG.
The complaint claims that all the headrests have a common defect, in that they may deploy on their own. Without a rear-end collision and without warning, the complaint says, they may spring forward, smacking the driver or passenger in the back of the head. This may cause injury to the head or neck, and it may also cause an accident.
How does it fail? The complaint puts the blame on a “cheap plastic component inside…” This is a little plastic bracket “that acts as a triggering mechanism and holds the spring-loaded release in place until a sensor alerts signaling a rear-end collision.” Why does it break? “As a cost-saving measure, [the companies] designed this bracket with an inferior and inexpensive form of plastic which cracks and breaks down prematurely under the constant pressure exerted by the springs of the AHR.”
The complaint quotes the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration (NHTSA) on defects related to safety, which it says may include “[c]ar seats and booster seats that contain defective safety belts, buckles, or components that create a risk of injury not only in a vehicle crash, but also in the nonoperational safety of a motor vehicle.”
According to the complaint, the companies knew of the defect because of complaints on the NHTSA website and the deployed headsets Mercedes drivers bring in to dealerships for service. The complaint alleges, “Despite this knowledge, Mercedes nevertheless approved the defective AHRs for use in its vehicles and denies that this defect exists.”
The complaint says that Grammer should know about it “because the same defective AHR system … is the subject of a class action lawsuit against Fiat-Chrysler.”
According to the complaint, Mercedes has not issued a recall and refuses to pay for replacement of the deployed AHRs. Instead, the complaint says, Mercedes blames the deployment on other causes, like a short circuit.
The complaint alleges breaches of warranties and violations of state consumer protection laws, among other things.