New Class Action Lawsuit Alleges That Keyless Ignition is “Dangerous and Defective”

start-83084_1280 (2)According to Edmunds.com, over seventy-two percent of the cars and trucks sold during 2014 came equipped with a push button ignition switch (either as a standard feature or an option).  The keyless ignition system allows a driver to start and stop a car by pressing a button while an electronic key fob is in the vicinity of the vehicle.

Aside from freeing up space in an automobile and providing additional convenience, the keyless ignition systems are considered to have additional advantages over conventional ignition switch with a key.  Recent recalls by General Motors and injury claims have demonstrated that keys can be jostled out of position (for example, due to the weight of other objects on the key chain or a driver inadvertently hitting the key while shifting), which may result in the engine shutting off.  Presumably, a keyless ignition would alleviate any concerns about unintentionally turning off a car.

In a class action complaint filed yesterday in Central District of California, however, the safety of the keyless ignition system has now been questioned.  The lawsuit, which is filed against ten automakers, alleges that keyless ignition systems are “dangerous and defective” because a driver may mistakenly believe that removing a keyless fob from the vehicle will also turn the engine off.    The plaintiffs further allege that if a vehicle’s engine continues to run, the car will emit carbon monoxide leading to potentially “deadly” results.

The plaintiffs claim that the vehicles should have “auto-off” and warning systems in place to alert drivers who mistakenly leave keys in their car.  Although the plaintiffs concede that some newer cars have such features, the manufacturers have not added these features to cars already on the road.   To this end, the lawsuit seeks an injunction requiring the named manufacturers to install automatic shut-off features on all existing and future vehicles that have keyless ignition systems.

Unlike prior cases and recalls involving airbag deployment, ignition shut off, or unintended acceleration, this purported defect will only occur if a driver fails to shut off his engine, fails to realize the car is still running, and then leaves the car unattended for a prolonged period of time.   There have been, however, prior lawsuits based on this theory of defect.  For example, two 2010 lawsuits from the Eastern District of New York alleged that a woman was severely injured and her partner was killed due to carbon monoxide poisoning when a car with a keyless ignition was inadvertently left running in a garage overnight. These lawsuits were settled for an undisclosed amount in June 2014, and were referenced in the newly filed complaint in California.

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Danny Lallis (852x1280) (3)

Written by Danny C. Lallis

Danny is a Partner with Pisciotti Malsch, and his practice includes appeals, product liability, and commercial litigation.



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