Lieff Cabraser Civil Justice Blog
Law360’s Top Auto Developments, Litigation Matters to Watch in 2017

Law360’s Top Auto Developments, Litigation Matters to Watch in 2017

Legal publication Law360 has provided a list of the top, most interesting automotive trials and vehicle legislation to watch for in the coming year. These matters include ongoing Volkswagen diesel emission cases, GM ignition switches, Takata airbags, self-driving car and vehicle safety regulations, and vehicle cybersecurity and connectivity.

VW Diesel Vehicle Emissions Case

More than 500 federal lawsuits were filed against the German auto manufacturer, which publicly admitted in 2015 that it had rigged emissions production in the diesel engines of approximately 11 million Volkswagen and Audi vehicles worldwide. The carmaker programmed software in their diesel emissions vehicles, in order to pass clean air tests. However, these supposed “clean diesel” vehicles were polluting up to 40 times the legal limit on the road. On October 25, 2016, Judge Charles M. Breyer granted final approval to an historic $14.7 billion settlement in the VW and Audi 2.0-Liter emissions case. Litigation is ongoing as to affected vehicles with 3.0-Liter engines.

As reported by Law360, sole lead counsel for the plaintiffs’ steering committee Elizabeth J. Cabraser stated that “the only thing she can predict about the emissions cases in 2017 is that the litigation will continue with the same efficiency as in 2016.” She added,“The court has said there is no reason to proceed at a languid pace.” Learn more about the VW diesel emission violations litigation.

GM Ignition Switch Litigation

General Motors was faced with numerous lawsuits claiming the company sold vehicles with defective ignition switches. Without warning, these switches can cause the car’s engine and electrical system to shut off, in turn disabling the airbags. For over a decade, GM was aware of this defect and failed to inform government safety regulators or the public. More than 1,000 lawsuits regarding the ignition switch problem in GM vehicles have already been settlement since the auto company began to recall vehicles in 2014.

According to Law360, Ms. Cabraser noted that the economic loss claims took a slower pace due to the dispute over the bankruptcy sale liability, but the plaintiffs hope to get to trial on at least some of the class action claims in 2017. Learn more about the faulty GM ignition switch cases.

Takata Air Bag Lawsuits

At least 12 wrongful deaths and over 100 personal injuries in the U.S. have been linked to the allegedly defective Takata air bag inflators. In addition, nearly 34 million vehicles that were mostly manufactured prior to 2009 have been recalled worldwide because of the dangerous air bag malfunction issue. These air bag inflators were installed in U.S. and foreign-made cars and pickup trucks, including those manufactured by Ford, Mercedes-Benz, GM, Chrysler, Honda, Nissan, Mazda, and BMW. To date, this marks the largest automotive recall in U.S. history.

“The auto manufacturers for the most part contracted out air bag manufacturing,” noted Ms. Cabraser to Law360. “They depend on third-party supplies for that component. So when millions are declared defective and placed under recall, that’s a huge supply-side challenge.” Learn more about the Takata Air Bag recall lawsuits.

Self-Driving Vehicle Legislation & Vehicle Safety Regulation

This year, the federal government announced a preliminary nationwide plan to implement self-driving technologies with the hope of preventing less car accidents and crashes. Additionally, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) issued voluntary guidelines for mobile device companies to have “driver modes” for smartphones and electronic devices. There is also talk of having automatic emergency braking features to be standard in new vehicles starting in the year 2022.

“All of the entertainment, information and communications activity that goes on in cars now that has nothing do with driving is totally distracting is a huge factor in accidents,” Ms. Cabraser explained. “It almost nullifies all the other safety advances and safety equipment that cars have now.”

National Consumer Protection and Vehicle Injury Attorneys at Lieff Cabraser

Lieff Cabraser has successfully represented clients nationwide in auto defect lawsuits against nearly all car makers, including GM, Chrysler, Ford, Mitsubishi, and Toyota. These lawsuits have involved a wide range of faulty vehicles and types of accidents including:

SUV rollover accidents;
Park to Reverse or False Park defects;
Weak, deficient SUV and car roofs;
Fuel tank explosions and car fires; and
Sudden, unintended acceleration.

If a safety defect with your vehicle or a component (such as the seat or tires) led to your accident or injury, you may be eligible to file a lawsuit against the manufacturer of the vehicle or auto part. If you or a family member have been injured in an accident linked to what you suspect may be a defective vehicle or vehicle component, please contact us for a prompt and confidential evaluation of your case. You can also call us toll-free at 1 800 541-7358 and ask to speak with auto accident attorney Fabrice N. Vincent.