Lawsuit Alleges General Motors’ Defective Airbags, Seat Belts Are Deadly

by Aryn Plax

Aug 16, 2021

A class action lawsuit alleges that General Motors hid a deadly airbag and seat belt defect from consumers for over ten years. According to data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, these defects that have resulted in at least 1,298 deaths and injuries.

Problems in the airbag control unit, specifically the Sensing and Diagnostic Module (SDM), prevent airbags and seat belt pretensioners from deploying in some frontal crashes.

The lawsuit affects vehicles that General Motors manufactured or sold to the public after July 10, 2009. Though the plaintiffs themselves do not allege that their own vehicles experienced these failures, the lawsuit alleges that millions of vehicles are unsafe to drive due to these defects.

The plaintiffs are as follows:

  • Jamar Chism, 2012 Chevrolet Traverse
  • Ashley DeGruy, 2014 Chevrolet Equinox
  • Kissy Elliott, 2014 Chevrolet Traverse
  • William Garrison, 2014 Chevrolet Silverado
  • Matthew Mastracci, 2014 Chevrolet Silverado
  • Arthur Ray, 2010 GMC Sierra 2500
  • Mark Silver, 2014 Chevrolet 1500 Express
  • Kenith Yates, 2014 Chevrolet Silverado LD

The SDM senses when a crash occurs and tells the airbags and seat belt pretensioners to deploy accordingly.

An airbag that has not yet been deployed.

However, GM’s SDM unit prevents deployment for 45 milliseconds after a crash starts, which causes problems with crashes that involve multiple impacts. If a signal from a second impact occurs more than 45 milliseconds after the first impact, the SDM disregards the first impact. This allegedly results in a “dead zone” that leaves consumers with little protection.

General Motors issued multiple recalls of vehicles with issues in the airbag control units, including a recall of 4 million vehicles in 2016 and a recall of 88,000 GMC vehicles in 2018.