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Product liability claim is dismissed after airbag system failure

Ellen Mook was badly hurt after a front-end collision involving her 2004 Chevrolet TrailBlazer.  According to her electronic data recorder (EDR), her speed went from 35 miles per hour to zero on impact and the airbag system should have activiated.  This had been a continuing problem reported frequently with TrailBlazers, apparently, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).  The Mooks filed suit against both General Motors and Draper Chevrolet, alleging product liability.

General Motors declared bankruptcy and the Mooks were forced to dismiss their claim against the manufacturer.  Under tort "reform" statutes, the retailer's responsibility for selling defective products is now severely limited in Michigan.  The Court held that Draper did not make any of the express warranties included in the owner's handbook. It reached that conclusion despite the fact that a Draper employee referred to the manual in selling the vehicle and in praising its airbag system.  The Court also concluded that no express warranty was made by the seller because the Owners Manual is not "promotional material" and also did not contain any warranties actually composed by the seller.

The Court then addressed the "GM Protection Plan" and implied warranties of fitness.   It concluded that the seller also did not violate any express warranty associated with the Protection Plan, even though the Plan confirmed that the dealer had "inspected the vehicle ...  and repair[ed] any uncorrected factory defects..."  The Court concluded that this warranty covered only the cost of repairs and did not actually promise that no defects exist.  With regard to implied warranties, the Court held that under product liability "reform" statutes, Draper could only be held liable if the Mooks proved that Draper employees failed to exercise reasonable care with respect to the product.  Even though there were numerous NHTSA complaints about non-activating airbag systems in this model and year TrailBlazer, the Court held that the dealer may not have been aware of the apparent defect.  It held that the Mooks did not document that the dealership "should have been aware" of the defects when it sold the vehicle, despite the complaints in the public domain.
Thompson O’Neil, P.C.
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Traverse City, Michigan 49684
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