Ten of the world’s largest automakers were sued Thursday in Los Angeles for allegedly hiding risks involved with carbon monoxide poisoning in more than 5 million vehicles equipped with keyless ignitions.
The proposed class-action suit, filed in federal court in Los Angeles by 28 plaintiffs, claims a “defect” in keyless ignitions allows car engines to continue running even after the electronic key fob is no longer in the car.
Representatives for Toyota and Torrance-based American Honda Motor Co. could not immediately be reached for comment.
The lawsuit cites cases in which drivers have accidentally left their vehicles running inside enclosed garages causing a build-up of toxic odorless carbon monoxide gas that seeped into homes, including at least one case involving a Toyota Prius hybrid.
“Plaintiffs believed the automakers’ repeated promises that the affected vehicles were safe,” according to the complaint. “In fact they are not.”
The suit contends that the build-up of carbon monoxide endangers the lives of those who inhale the “deadly” gas, and more than a dozen people have died and many have been injured as a result.
According to the complaint, in gasoline-electric hybrid cars, the engine may not be running at all when a driver gets out of the vehicle, but it could become activated after power in the car’s batteries run low.
Many cars make a loud beeping sound to alert drivers that they are leaving while the engine is running, and many automakers have added an “auto- off” feature to newer cars and trucks. However, the lawsuit claims, car makers have not gone back to older vehicles already on the road and added the software.
The automakers being sued are Toyota, including Lexus; BMW, including Mini; Daimler’s Mercedes Benz; Fiat Chrysler; Ford; General Motors; Honda, including Acura; Volkswagen, including Bentley; Hyundai, including Kia; and Nissan, including Infiniti.
The suit seeks an injunction to require the automakers to install an automatic shut-off feature. It also seeks compensatory and punitive damages, among other remedies.
— City News Service