According to court documents, filed in California court this week, the plaintiffs claim that reasonable drivers misunderstand that keyless-ignition fobs do not turn their vehicles engines off. Further, the cars don't have a safety mechanism to automatically turn off the engine after it' been left idling for a set amount of time. When the car engines are left running in owners' garages, it can lead to in an increased risk of carbon monoxide poisoning.
"As a result, deadly carbon monoxide, often referred to as the 'silent killer' because it is a colorless, odorless gas, can fill enclosed spaces and spread to the attached homes,"the plaintiffs said. "The results have been at least 13 documented deaths and many more serious injuries requiring hospitalization, all from carbon monoxide poisoning."
According to the lawsuit, in cars that use traditional keys, the engine can no longer operate once it' removed from the vehicle. By contrast, keyless-ignition fobs can remotely turn on the engine, but have nothing to do with turning off the engine. Therefore, drivers can park their cars and exit with the keyless fob and still leave the engine running no matter how far the fob goes from the car.
The lawsuit alleges the defendants and their research and design companies installed the keyless fob systems without instituting proper safeguards and warnings.
Further, the plaintiffs contend that the lack of an auto-off feature Is not mentioned in the car manuals, therefore failing to warn of the risk for carbon monoxide poisoning. The cars have no audible warnings alerting drivers that the engine is still running.
The plaintiffs assert that individuals personal injury lawsuits have been filed over the lack of an auto-off feature, resulting in confidential settlements. Similarly, consumers have filed complaints with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. However, the plaintiffs contend the automakers haven't taken action in response to the complaints.
In fact, the plaintiffs assert that the automakers have known for years about the deadly consequences of drivers' leaving their vehicles without hitting the start/stop button used in keyless-ignition cars, but that they refuse to act.
The lawsuit states that the auto-off feature is feasible and has already been implemented by some of the automakers. The plaintiffs claim that while some new vehicles are now outfitted with the auto-off system, the automakers are doing nothing to rectify older models or notify drivers about the potential safety risk.
The suit asserts national claims for negligent failure to recall and unjust enrichment, as well as state claims for fraudulent concealment, violation of state consumer protection acts and breach of implied warranty, among others.
The plaintiffs are represented by Elaine T. Byszewski and Steve W. Berman of Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro LLP and Martis Alex, Daniel R. Leathers and Brian R. Morrison of Labaton Sucharow LLP.
The case is Draeger et al. v. Toyota Motor Sales USA Inc. et al., case number 2:15-cv-06491, in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California.