Girard Gibbs represented owners and lessees of the 2004-2005 model year 5-Series BMW, in a class action lawsuit alleging that BMW concealed a known design defect in the seat occupation detection system in these vehicles. On September, 14, 2007, Judge Wendell Mortimer granted final approval to a settlement agreement providing for the reprogramming of the seat occupation system, free of charge to all class members.
The 2004 5-Series BMW owners manual states that the vehicle contains a seat occupation detection system, which deactivates the front passenger sear airbags when a child occupies that seat. This protects the child from potential injury caused by the impact of inflating airbags. According to the manual, when an adult exceeding a certain weight threshold occupies the front passenger seat, the airbags remain active. The lawsuit contended that, contrary to these representations, the deactivation indicator lit up when adults significantly exceeding the weight threshold occupied the front passenger seat, indicating that the airbag system was deactivated.
The complaint alleged that, by concealing the defective nature of the airbags, BMW was able to sell more vehicles and charge more for the vehicles than they would have otherwise. The complaint further alleged that BMW's failure to implement an effective remedy for this problem, constituted a breach of the New Vehicle Limited Warranty, covering all class vehicles sold or leased in California.
Girard Gibbs negotiated a settlement requiring BMW to reprogram the occupation detection systems at no charge.