The litigation alleges auto manufacturers should have initiated a recall of millions of keyeless entry and ignition models because the vehicles apparently did not shut off automatically when the driver failed to press the start and stop buttons. This, plaintiffs allege, put drivers at risk of carbon monoxide poisoning.
Already, plaintiffs assert there have been more than dozen deaths associated with this issue. There have also been numerous “close calls,” wherein people were able to evade danger before it turned deadly.
Carbon monoxide is found in fumes that are produced anytime you burn fuel in your cars or trucks, small engines, stoves, lanterns, gas ranges or furnaces. When the gas – also referred to as CO – builds up in doors, it can be poisonous to both people and animals who breathe it. In fact, it is often fatal.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate about 400 Americans die annually from unintentional CO poisoning, and another 4,000 are admitted to hospitals for this same reason.
According to this defective product lawsuit filed against some of the world’s biggest auto makers, drivers who are reasonable wrongly think that by removing the keyless fob from the vehicle that they have effectively turned off the engine. However, they have not. Keyless vehicles give drivers the ability to open doors and even start their engines without inserting a key into the lock or the ignition switch. To start the ignition, drivers simply push a stop or start button. To shut the car off, they have to manually press the stop button again. But people weren’t doing that. They were simply taking the key fob and walking out. But if the vehicle was indoors – say, a garage – and the vehicle was still running, it put everyone in close proximity at risk of CO poisoning.
The federal lawsuit alleges the car makers – Volkswagen, Toyota, Ford, Honda, Nissan, GM, MBW, Hyuandai, Kia, Mercedez-Benz and Bentley – were aware of this potential risk, or at least should have been aware of it.
Some vehicles that are made to be compatible with keyless entry also came quipped with audible chimes and alerts, which gave notice to the driver when he or she exited and the engine was actually still running.
Those auto manufacturers that failed to implement this type of alert system – a fairly inexpensive fix – were putting people in serious jeopardy and failing to warn them of that danger, plaintiffs allege.
Complaints about this problem have been fielded by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) since at least 2007. With some auto makers initiating patents to address the issue, the problem became common knowledge within the auto industry. The only question was, how would they act? For some, unfortunately, the response was to do nothing. Others waited years before implementing this important technology.
At no point were there any warnings to consumers, either through sales associates or brochures or advertisements. In so doing, plaintiffs allege, auto makers worked to conceal the danger.
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Keyless Ignitions Led to Carbon Monoxide Deaths and Should Have Been Recalled, Suit Says, Aug. 27, 2015, By Erin Dooley, ABC News