Seeking damages in excess of $5 million, a Dallas trial lawyer hit three of the largest automobile manufactures in the world with a federal class action Tuesday, alleging their vehicles are prime targets for hackers.
Through attorneys for the Stanley Law Group, the suit was filed against Toyota, Ford and GM in the U.S. District Court for Northern California, San Francisco Division. Three west coast residents make up the class so far, Helene Cahen, Kerry Tompulis and Merrill Nisam.
The class alleges the automobile manufactures failed consumers by selling vehicles “that are susceptible to computer hacking and are therefore unsafe.”
No class member alleges damages for being hacked while driving.
“Because Defendants failed to ensure the basic electronic security of their vehicles, anyone can hack into them, take control of the basic functions of the vehicle, and thereby endanger the safety of the driver and others,” the suit states.
“When Defendants sell or lease any vehicle to a customer, they have a duty to ensure the vehicle functions properly and safely, and is free from defects.”
Most modern automobiles contain some level of networked components that work to monitor and control the vehicle.
To drive this point home, the action cites a 2013 study funded by the U.S. Defense
Advanced Research Projects Agency, which states: “Drivers and passengers are strictly at the mercy of the code running in their automobiles and, unlike when their web browser crashes or is compromised, the threat to their physical well-being is real.”
The suit comes one month after U.S. Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass., released a report entitled: "Tracking & Hacking: Security & Privacy Gaps Put American Drivers at Risk."
“New technologies in cars have enabled valuable features that have the potential to improve driver safety and vehicle performance,” the report states.
“The proliferation of these technologies raises concerns about the ability of hackers to gain access and control to the essential functions and features of those cars and for others to utilize information on drivers’ habits for commercial purposes without the drivers’ knowledge or consent.”
On top of punitive damages, the class seeks injunctive relief in the form of a recall or free replacement program.
Attorney Marc Stanley represents the class.
Case No. 4:15-cv-01104-DMR