A recently-filed class action lawsuit alleges that the cupholders in the BMW X7 are improperly designed and cannot safely hold liquid. However, this claim has nothing to do with liquid spilling and injuring a passenger or damaging the interior of the vehicle. The allegations are much more serious – drivers are reporting that liquid spilled in the cupholder can leak into the airbag control module and cause the airbags to suddenly deploy.
According to the complaint filed December 16, 2021 in Orange County Court:
The cup holders in the Class Vehicles are designed defectively because they are not designed, nor intended, to actually hold cups filled with liquid. When liquid spills into the cup holder, the wires for the SRS (airbag) control module, which sits directly underneath cup holder, get wet and are damaged, causing damage to the air bags. As a result, the air bags can inadvertently deploy.
Cupholders are by design, meant to safely hold liquid, if they do not perform and allow liquid to leak into important safety compartments of the vehicle, this is a serious design flaw and falls under the area of law known as product liability, which we will talk about in a moment.
The lawsuit also notes that even condensation on a cup can cause a malfunction. The Drive also reports a number of driver-submitted complaints and incidents caused by this design flaw, including after spilling liquid in the cupholder, receiving a “restraint system failure” dashboard notification.
One vehicle owner reported receiving a restraint system failure notification in July 2021 and took it to the dealership for repair. The BMW service representative claimed that liquid leaking into the SRS control module caused the malfunction – and BMW would not cover repairs, calling it “outside interference,” even though the vehicle was under warranty.
Another owner posted online about spilling a small amount of soda in the cupholder while driving their BMW X7, causing the vehicle going to an emergency stop on the highway. After a tow to a BMW dealership, a technician told the owner the cost for repair was $2,900 and outside of warranty.
Has BMW taken any action?
As of early 2022, they have not. The Drive notes that in some cases, BMW has paid for repairs, but in other cases, they have not. The court complaint, however, states:
At all times relevant, Plaintiff is informed, believes, and based thereon alleges that BMW has refused to provide the free repair, replacement, or retrofitting of the cup holders to owners of the affected vehicles and has refused to reimburse consumers who have paid to have the cup holders repaired in their vehicles.
Although no injuries have yet been reported, thousands of vehicles could potentially be affected by this alleged design defect.
As of this writing, BMW had no comment on the lawsuit. However, it might be worth remembering this 2011 statement from then-CEO of BMW North America, Ludwig Willisch: “Cup holders have been a huge issue in the company. This has been a 20-year debate within the company. This is really about taking into account customer needs, and obviously at a certain point in time the engineers did not believe that this was an issue.”
What is a design defect?
The complaint against BMW reads that the cupholders are “designed defectively.” This means there is a flaw in the design of a vehicle or vehicle component that causes it to be unsafe to the consumer/user of the product. Design defects are mistakes in the original design of a vehicle or part that makes it unsafe – even when used as expected.
Vehicle defects can cause catastrophic accidents and injuries, as they tend to happen without warning. Auto manufacturers have a responsibility to the public to design, manufacture, and sell safe vehicles free of defects. Further, if defects are detected, they should also launch a recall of affected vehicles.
Common vehicle defects include:
- Defective airbags
- Defective steering components
- Faulty wiring and electrical systems
- Faulty fuel systems
- Defective tires
In the case of BMW, the lawsuit alleges a design defect in the cupholder, meaning all vehicles in the X7 SUV class are likely affected. Plaintiffs also claim they are indeed using the cupholder as designed – for holding beverages, and the design of both the cupholder and placement of the airbag module directly underneath are faulty and dangerous.
Who is liable for an auto defect accident?
If you are injured in a car accident caused by a vehicle defect, several parties may hold liability. Only an experienced Los Angeles attorney can determine the proper liable party or parties, but they may include:
- Auto manufacturers, when they put unsafe cars and trucks on the market
- Distributors and wholesalers, when they damage vehicles and make them unsafe
- Car dealerships, when they sell or install defective car parts
- Auto parts sellers, when they sell defective car parts
Although the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) handles nationwide vehicle recalls, a vehicle does not have to be recalled to be deemed unsafe or dangerous. You can also report a safety problem to help the NHTSA compile defect-related safety issues. If your vehicle is recalled, however, ensure you follow all instructions from the NHTSA and/or the manufacturer.
After an accident caused by a vehicle defect, you may be eligible for compensation for your injuries. This can include your medical expenses, lost wages and future earning potential, and pain and suffering. Talk to our legal team to find out more.
At McNicholas & McNicholas, LLP, we put our experience to work when you suffer serious injury in a car accident. We work to recover compensation for your injuries and losses while you take the time you need to heal. Our Los Angeles injury attorneys are here to help. To schedule a free, remote consultation, call us today at 310-474-1582 or complete our contact form.
Please note that this blog is not to be construed as legal advice. Because every case is fact-specific, you should consult directly with an attorney to obtain legal advice specific to your situation.
For more than three decades, McNicholas & McNicholas, LLP has built a reputation as one of California’s leading law firms. Founded by a family of attorneys spanning three generations, John McNicholas and sons, Patrick and Matthew, have tried hundreds of cases to jury verdict on behalf of clients. Learn More about McNicholas & McNicholas