The Neck-Pro-branded active head restraints found in certain Mercedes-Benz vehicles suffer from a “common, uniform defect” that can cause the device to deploy without warning or any external force from a collision and strike the back of a vehicle occupant’s head, a proposed class action claims.
The 116-page lawsuit alleges Mercedes has “[f]or more than a decade” advertised and sold vehicles with defective active head restraints (AHRs), which are designed to propel forward and cushion and arrest the abrupt backward movement of an individual’s head after impact, that can deploy without warning, possibly while a car is being driven. The devices, manufactured by German company Grammer AG, are allegedly plagued by what the case describes as an internal “cheap plastic component” responsible for holding the spring-loaded release of the AHR in place until a sensor is triggered in the event of a rear-end collision.
As a cost-saving measure, Mercedes-Benz parent company Daimler AG, the lawsuit alleges, designed this crucial bracket with an “inferior and inexpensive form of plastic” that can crack and break down prematurely under the constant pressure exerted by the tensed springs within an AHR. Per the case, there is no way for the owner of a Mercedes-Benz vehicle equipped with Neck-Pro active head restraints—of which there are at least hundreds of thousands in the U.S., the suit says—to predict when the device will deploy spontaneously.
The lawsuit, filed in Georgia’s Northern District Court, alleges Mercedes-Benz and Daimler AG have, until recently, possessed exclusive knowledge of the AHR defect and its cause yet declined to inform buyers and lessees, who “could not reasonably discover the defect through due diligence.” Mercedes-Benz became aware of the apparent headrest defect “as early as 2006,” the lawsuit claims.
“Defendants were intimately involved in the design and testing of the AHR systems and were aware that they were designed with an inferior, inexpensive, plastic that cannot withstand the constant force applied by the springs,” the suit alleges. “Despite this exclusive and superior knowledge, the Mercedes Defendants continued to direct and approve the defective AHRs for use in their vehicles, and continued to distribute the Class Vehicles to their dealers, and dealers continued to sell Class Vehicles with the defective AHR.”
In addition to allegedly “conspir[ing]” to conceal their knowledge of the problem, the defendants have thus far “refused” to issue a recall, remedy the active head restraint defect or compensate drivers for damages they’ve incurred, according to the complaint.
“Despite knowing of the dangers of the poorly designed bracket and the cheap materials used, Defendants have taken no action to correct the problem and continue to manufacture, sell or lease, knowingly misrepresent as safe, and fail to disclose the safety hazard in vehicles containing the defective NECK-PRO,” the lawsuit scathes, claiming the automaker refuses to cover any out-of-warranty costs to replace a vehicle’s AHR while “blaming the consumer and disclaiming any responsibility.”
Consumers who paid to buy or lease a Mercedes-Benz vehicle equipped with a defective AHR “did not receive the benefits of their bargains,” the case argues.
The case looks to represent all consumers in the United States, except in Florida, who currently own or lease, or who have owned or leased, one or more Class Vehicles, i.e. cars equipped with a Neck-Pro-branded AHR, made by Mercedes-Benz, or any of its subsidiaries, that are equipped with headrests containing the defective active head restraints.
The allegations in the lawsuit largely mirror those of a proposed class action filed in September 2019 that, as of April 2021, continues to wend its way through the legal system. Noted in the complaint is that alleged active head restraint defects were the subject of a separate proposed class action filed against Fiat Chrysler, the maker of Dodge, Jeep and Chrysler vehicles.
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