Beasley Allen lawyers filed two class action lawsuits concerning defective braking systems in 2014-2018 full-sized SUVs and trucks, partnering with law firms Corey Watson of Birmingham, Alabama; Kiesel Law of Beverly Hills, California; and Wyly-Rommel of Texarkana, Texas, to prosecute these actions. This week, GM recalled those vehicles.
The announcement comes nearly a year after the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) opened a preliminary investigation of the problem in response to reports of crashes linked to the defect.
“While it is good that GM publicly acknowledged the defect and its inherent safety risk, they’ve misled Americans by implying that they can remedy a mechanical brake failure with an electronic software patch,” says Beasley Allen lawyer Clay Barnett, who practices in the firm’s Atlanta office. “Ultimately, the failing mechanical vacuum pump at the heart of the defect should be replaced with a more robust unit.”
On Wednesday, Sept. 11, GM said it is recalling nearly 3.5 million pickup trucks and SUVs in the U.S. to repair a defective vacuum pump that could diminish the vehicle’s braking ability and lead to a crash. To date, the defect has been linked to 113 accidents and 13 injuries.
GM documents posted by NHTSA say the amount of vacuum generated by the vacuum assist pump can decrease over time. The pump is lubricated by engine oil that passes through a filter screen before entering the pump. As the vehicle ages, oil sludge and other debris can accumulate on the filter, causing the pump to oil starve and fail internally.
When this happens, the hydraulic braking system in the affected vehicles is seriously compromised. According to NHTSA, the “vehicles may experience brake boost failure, which would require increased brake pedal effort, leading to a hard brake pedal feel, and potentially increased stopping distance.”
Drivers consistently report a stiff brake pedal that requires multiple times the normal leg force needed to depress the brake pedal and activate the hydraulic brakes. Some drivers report a simultaneous dashboard alert that the brake assist system requires servicing.
The recall covers 3.46 million 2014-2018 GM vehicles in the U.S., including certain Cadillac Escalade, Chevrolet Silverado, Chevrolet Tahoe, GMC Suburban, and GMC Yukon vehicles.
GM announced a recall of about 310,000 vehicles in Canada to repair the same problem in June. It is uncertain why GM announced the U.S. recall more than two months later.
GM claims it will reprogram the electronic brake control module to improve how the system manages the hydraulic brake boost assist function when vacuum assist is depleted. However, the brake system failure is mechanical not electronic. The failing mechanical pump must be replaced with a properly designed and more robust unit.
The cases are Scott Peckerar et al v. General Motors, LLC; 5:18-cv-02153-DMG-SP; filed in the U.S. District Court, Central District of California, and Jason Compton v. General Motors LLC; 1:19-cv-00033-AW-GRJ; filed in the U.S. District Court, Northern District of Florida.