According to a class action lawsuit, the active head restraint (AHR) mechanisms in the headrests in certain Mercedes-Benz vehicles are defective and can deploy without warning or the force of a collision.
Eight consumers have put their names on a proposed class action in which they allege the active head restraint (AHR) mechanism made by Grammer AG and found in certain Mercedez-Benz vehicles is defective in that it can deploy without warning or a collision taking place and forcefully strike the back of a driver or passenger’s head.
The 75-page case out of Florida’s Southern District explains that certain Mercedes vehicles have for more than a decade come equipped with an “active head restraint” (AHR), branded as “NECK-PRO,” in each headrest. The AHR is designed to spring forward in the event of a rear-end collision, the case says, and rapidly push out the headrest to effectively catch vehicle occupants’ heads to prevent whiplash.
As the lawsuit tells it, however, all NECK-PRO AHRs are uniformly defective in that they can deploy “without warning or external force from a collision” and forcefully strike a vehicle occupant in the back of the head. This strike can cause serious harm to the head and neck, according to the suit, and poses the risk of collision in the event a Mercedes AHR deploys while a vehicle is in operation.
The alleged NECK-PRO defect stems from the premature failure of a “cheap plastic component” within the device, the case continues. Mercedes’ AHR, the suit explains, contains a plastic bracket that serves as the triggering mechanism for the AHR and holds the device’s spring-loaded release in place until a sensor signals a rear-end collision. In an effort to cut costs, Mercedes-Benz, the case says, designed this component with “an inferior and inexpensive form of plastic” that can crack and break down prematurely under “the constant pressure exerted by the springs in the AHR.”
According to the suit, there are hundreds of thousands of Mercedes vehicles in the United States equipped with NECK-PRO AHRs that can deploy without warning. For Mercedes’ part, the lawsuit alleges the automaker became aware of the defect through consumer complaints submitted to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and dealerships. Despite possessing knowledge of the apparent problem, Mercedes, the case says, approved the faulty AHR units for use in its vehicles anyway, and denies that the defect exists.
“Despite knowing of the dangers caused by the poorly designed bracket, Defendants have taken no action to correct the problem and continue to manufacture, sell or lease, and knowingly misrepresent as safe, vehicles containing the defective NECK-PRO,” the complaint reads. “Mercedes has not issued a recall or made any attempt to notify Mercedes owners of the defect. To the contrary, when presented with deployed, defective headrests, Mercedes refuses to cover the cost of replacing the defective AHR after it spontaneously deploys, blaming the consumer and disclaiming any responsibility.”
Moreover, Mercedes is alleged by the plaintiffs to have attempted to conceal the defect by tying the spontaneous deployment of AHRs to unrelated issues, such as, according to one service bulletin sent to the NHTSA, “damage to the seat wiring harness causing a short circuit.”
With the filing of the lawsuit, the plaintiffs hope to compel defendants Mercedes-Benz USA, Grammer AG and Daimler AG to notify the owners of all affected vehicles of the AHR defect, as well as issue a recall and compensate Mercedes owners.
“Each Plaintiff and putative Class member was deprived of having a defect-free headrest installed in their vehicle and Defendants have been, and are being to this day, unjustly enriched from their unconscionable delay in issuing a recall (and thereby saving the cost of a recall) on the defective NECK-PRO headrests,” the suit reads.