A proposed class action lawsuit filed against Subaru of America centers on 2015-2018 Forester SUVs that a consumer alleges come equipped with a defective passenger-side airbag sensor and indicator that fail to accurately detect passengers and activate the airbag system.
Citing the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act and the Michigan Consumer Protection Act, the 35-page complaint states that Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard No. 208 mandates that every vehicle with an airbag system meant to deploy in the event of a crash also come equipped with a monitoring system with a readiness indicator. A vehicle’s monitoring system and readiness indicator are tasked with recognizing when a passenger-side airbag should or should not deploy by interpreting the characteristics and location information of a vehicle occupant, the lawsuit says. A passenger airbag sensor must also determine when someone or something is seated in the passenger seat and the airbag should not be activated for safety reasons, which must be relayed via an indicator light with the message “Passenger Airbag Off” on a vehicle’s dashboard, the case explains.
According to the lawsuit, the passenger-side airbag sensors and airbag indicators in 2015-2018 Subaru Forester SUVs either fail to operate properly or operate sporadically. The plaintiff claims proposed class members have experienced instances when their vehicles’ passenger airbag indicators have turned on and off while the car was in operation and when no passenger of sufficient weight was properly seated in the passenger seat.
The alleged defect poses a significant safety risk in that drivers and passengers of affected Subarus have no knowledge of whether the airbag sensors or airbag indicators are working properly, the complaint claims. Moreover, the case says, passengers are at risk of serious injury or death in the event an airbag sensor fails to function properly.
Subaru, the lawsuit stresses, advertises and markets its Forester crossover SUVs as safe, emphasizing that the vehicles are safer than other brands. As the lawsuit tells it, however, while the automaker warrants in the Forester owners’ manual that the vehicle comes with an occupant detection system that monitors the physique and posture of a front-seat passenger, the manual also lists what the lawsuit describes as “excessive and unreasonable restrictions” on the usability of the passenger seat. According to the lawsuit, drivers are burdened by such restrictions, which include a precaution against driving with a passenger in the front seat while a passenger airbag indicator is illuminated.
“Because passengers are not allowed to sit in the passenger seat when the Passenger Airbag Indicator illuminates, the Defect and the owner’s manual’s excessive and unreasonable restrictions prevent vehicle owners from driving with passengers,” the case argues.
Lastly, the lawsuit charges that Subaru has no fix for the alleged passenger-side airbag sensor and indicator defect, as a number of consumers have attempted to have theirs fixed at authorized dealerships to no avail. The case charges Subaru has taken “an unreasonable amount of time and attempts to remedy the defect” in the plaintiff’s vehicle while failing to issue a recall or allowing dealerships to use “any other effective remedy."
The lawsuit looks to cover both a nationwide and Michigan-only class of consumers who bought and/or leased a 2015 to 2018 Subaru Forester.