Orange County woman files lawsuit, claims headrest deployed while she was driving

Class action lawsuit filed against Chrysler, FCA Group

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. – With her passenger side door open, Wilma Perez points to zip ties she has holding together her headrest, seemingly pulled apart to pieces. She says she feels her hands are tied with how to keep her and her grandchildren safe while on the road.

Her concerns come after she says her Active Head Restraint "AHR" deployed while she was driving her 2014 Dodge Avenger along Interstate 95 to Daytona Beach for a meeting last May. 

"A loud, loud pop, I thought, for a moment I thought it was a bullet shattering the window or a rock. I just couldn't figure it out," Perez said. 

Once she got to her destination, she says her headrest had deployed. According to Perez and her attorney, Robby Bell,  the "AHR" is a device found in Chrysler, Jeep and Dodge vehicles and deploy in the event of a rear-end crash or violent force. 

"It's supposed to deploy to minimize or reduce the gap of the person's head to the headrest to prevent or reduce whiplash," Bell said. 

However, Perez said hers deployed for no reason while she was simply on the road. She says she took it to the Chrysler dealership where she normally gets her oil changes and was shocked that what she calls a defect wasn't listed as a recall. She was even more shocked when she was told she would have to pay up to $800 to fix it. 

"It was scary because it could have caused an accident, I could have lost control. And what if my grandchildren were in there?" Perez asked. 

So, she hired Bell and together, they filed a class action lawsuit. The lawsuit and Bell claim Perez isn't the only one with a similar experience. 

[READ: Class action lawsuit against Chrysler]

"The reason why we are bringing the case is because this is a safety issue," Bell said. "Our belief is that there is thousands, if not millions, of cars nationwide that have these headrests and in the event that this happens while someone is driving, especially on the driver's side, it can cause major issues."

According to a search on the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, there were several complaints claiming the same thing had happened. 

"The front passenger headrest active head restraint safety device deployed without warning during normal driving. There was no impact, etc., that would cause the device to deploy. The device errantly deployed. Had a passenger been in the vehicle this could have resulted in serious injury. The vehicle was not in motion. Through online research, I noted that this seems to be a common issue. But I do not see a recall on it," one complaint from Brooksville read. 

Late Wednesday afternoon, FCA US, formerly known as the Chrysler Group, responded to Perez's claim. They began by saying they had no record of Perez contacting a dealer to address her issue. A spokesperson released this official statement. 

"FCA US vehicles meet or exceed all federal safety requirements. Customer safety is paramount at FCA US. Evaluation confirms that even in the rare event of inadvertent deployment there is no unreasonable risk of injury. Absent such risk, there is no safety defect. We cannot discuss this matter further at this time as it is in litigation," wrote Michael Palese. 

To read more complaints about this to the NHTSA or to file one yourself, click here

About the Author:

Nadeen Yanes joined News 6 as a general assignment reporter in 2016. She grew up in Leesburg and graduated from the University of Florida. Nadeen has won three Associated Press Awards for her reporting on the Pulse Nightclub shooting, the trial of the Pulse gunman's wife and the capture of an accused cop killer, Markeith Loyd.