Texas families suing GM for alleged car safety defects

General Motors is being sued by two Texas families for alleged safety defects involving vehicle head restraints.

There were two separate accidents, but they involved the same make and model in both: the 2016 Chevy Malibu.

"These are the identical vehicles with the identical problems, just with different defects,” said attorney Todd Tracy.

The alleged defects that the Dallas attorney describes in his lawsuits involve the head restraints on two 2016 Chevy Malibu cars.

According to one lawsuit, the driver of a Malibu, 46-year-old Randy Davis of Houston, was rear-ended by a truck last October, and the entire head restraint flew off of the seat. Davis was killed.

The suit alleges "the head restraint posts and inserts separated from the head restraint and caused internal decapitation."

"This is a very low-speed impact,” Tracy said. “This is a walk away impact, not an impact where you're dead."

Tracy also filed a suit in Abilene on behalf of 71-year-old Johnny Anderson of Lubbock. Court records show Anderson was rear-ended by a pickup in February and the head restraint snapped. Anderson is paralyzed from the neck down.

In Anderson’s case, Tracy says the car was only going 10 miles an hour.

"This gentleman — who should have walked away from it — will never walk again because he's a C1, C2 quadriplegic,” Tracy said.

In this case, the attorney questions the material used in the head restraint posts.

"They are breaking because the posts are no longer solid,” Tracy said. “They are cored out in middle, and they are using a very cheap grade metal that is hollow."

Both lawsuits say the vehicles “failed to provide proper restraint in rear impact… The head restraint violated principles of crashworthiness” and that the “design was not subjected to rigorous engineering analysis."

"When the post fails or when the posts pull out, you're going to get injured to the point of being catastrophically injured,” Tracy said. “Or you are going to die."

In response to the lawsuits, General Motors is denying the allegations in both cases. It says “plaintiffs' alleged injuries and damages, if any, were the result of negligent acts and/or omissions of third parties… beyond GM LLC's control."

General Motors also says the Malibus “may not have been in the same condition as it was when it left the control of GM LLC, and that any change in condition… may have caused plaintiffs' alleged injuries and damages, if any."

There is no recall for the head restraints from either the manufacturer or the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

On its website, the NHTSA does not indicate any rear collision testing on the 2016 Malibu, but does give it a top five-star safety rating in front and side crash tests. There are no consumer complaints about head restraints listed on NHTSA’s site.

And on the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's website, the head restraints received a "good" rating, the highest mark.   

"I give General Motors kudos,” Tracy said. “General Motors has been out at my crash lab, and they are studying this diligently."

But Tracy says this issue deserves a recall.            

"This is the worst defect trend I've ever seen in 30 years of doing this because people have no idea of the importance of the head restraint,” he said.

Both lawsuits are seeking potentially millions of dollars in damages.

In the responses, GM filed with the court for both claims. The company contends the Chevy Malibus were in compliance with all federal motor vehicle safety standards.

FOX 4 wanted to ask GM specific questions about the lawsuits and tried repeatedly by phone and email to reach the Texas attorneys representing GM. We have not yet received a response.

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