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Subaru Forester Defective Passenger-Side Airbag Sensors Class Action

2018 Subaru Forester

If a passenger-side airbag system does not detect a passenger in the seat, it will not deploy. The complaint for this class action alleges that 2015-2018 Subaru Foresters have a defect that intermittently prevents them from detecting passengers and therefore does not get the airbag ready for deployment.

The Nationwide Class is all persons in the US who bought or leased a 2015-2018 Subaru Forester. There is also a similar Michigan class. 

Plaintiff Janelle Kassian bought her 2018 Forester on February 17, 2018, from Serra Subaru in Tranverse City, Michigan. She “experienced the Defect intermittently,” the complaint says, and took the vehicle to Subaru By-The-Bay in Petotsky, Michigan for servicing. 

The vehicle showed error code B1650, meaning an error in the occupant detection system. However, the dealership did not fix the problem; the complaint says the staff there simply told Kassian “that she could not put electronics, such as her cell phone, on the passenger seat.”

In August 2019, with the problem continuing, she took the vehicle in again to Subaru By-The-Bay to have the defective sensor repaired or replaced. Again, the dealership found the error code B1650, but it was unable to reproduce the problem. The staff charged Kassian $55.78 and told her to bring the vehicle back when it was experiencing the problem. 

According to the complaint, the problem is ongoing; the defect still occurs intermittently, with or without passengers in the seat.

The complaint quotes Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard No. 208 as saying that any vehicle with “[a]n occupant protection system that deploys in the event of a crash shall have a monitoring system with a readiness indicator.” 

In modern vehicles, the complaint says, the front passenger-side seat has a sensor “to sense whether a person of sufficient weight is properly seated in the passenger seat.” If so, the airbag is activated so that it will deploy in the event of an accident. However, the complaint says, if the sensor “determines that someone is seated but that the passenger-side airbag should not be activated for safety reasons, an indicator with the message ‘PASSENGER AIR BAG OFF’ … must illuminate on the vehicle dashboard.”

The complaint says that drivers experience the indicators turning on and off while they’re driving, whether or not there is a person of sufficient weight in the passenger seat. 

The owner’s manual has a long list of special precautions for the use of the front seat. However, the complaint says, they create “excessive and unreasonable restrictions on the usability of the passenger seat.”

Included in the complaint are postings from the Subaru and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) websites describing the same problem.

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