Michigan Chevy dealership cleared in airbag suit

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LANSING, Mich. -- The Michigan Court of Appeals has cleared a Chevrolet dealership of all warranty claims in a suit over airbags in a 2004 Chevrolet TrailBlazer that failed to deploy in a crash.

Draper Chevrolet in Saginaw, Mich., explicitly disclaimed all warranties in the plaintiffs' vehicle sales contract, the three-judge panel said, and all warranties were made exclusively by General Motors.

According to the decision, Ellen Mook and her husband bought the TrailBlazer and a service contract in August 2004. The suit claimed that when they were at the dealership, they asked about the "dual stage front air bags" listed on the window sticker and that an employee referred them to the owner's manual explanation of how they work.

In 2008, Mook was seriously injured in a frontal collision when the airbags didn't deploy. The couple sued GM and the dealership, but GM was dismissed after it filed for bankruptcy protection.

A lower-court judge tossed out all claims against Draper without trial.

The appellate court said in its decision that the dealership's disclaimer of warranties was clearly printed in bold type in the sales contract. The court also said the fact that the dealership gave the owner's manual to the Mooks did not create an express warranty.

Next, the court said Draper didn't breach the GM protection plan, which limited customer remedies to "performance of repairs and needed adjustments." The Mooks hadn't brought any "uncorrected defects" in the airbag system to Draper's attention for repair, the court noted.

Finally, the court said it found no breach of any implied warranty. Even if the TrailBlazer had been defective, there was no evidence that the dealership should have known that fact or the fact that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration had received complaints about the airbag system.

NHTSA never conducted a formal investigation, the court noted.

Attorneys for the parties did not respond to requests for comment.

You can reach Eric Freedman at freedma5@msu.edu.

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