Massachusetts Senator’s Report on “Tracking and Hacking” Leads to Federal Lawsuit Against Automakers

Last month, Massachusetts Senator Ed Markey’s office released a report entitled “Tracking & Hacking:  Security & Privacy Gaps Put American Drivers at Risk.” The report details the vulnerabilities that are becoming more and more commonplace as technology such as wireless data collection, navigation systems, safety monitoring tools, and remote access make their way into automobiles.

To address concerns that these new technologies may endanger drivers or encroach upon their privacy rights, the senator sent letters to several automobile manufacturers. At least 19 manufactures replied, including Ford, General Motors, Chrysler, Honda, Toyota, and Mazda.

The manufacturers’ responses to the Senator’s letter resulted in several key findings that are set out in the report. Topping the list is the fact that almost all of the cars presently on the market have wireless technology that could result in privacy intrusions or hacking. Also of concern were manufacturers being unable to detail past incidents of hacking and inconsistencies in the safety measures concerning remote access to vehicle electronics.  The overall tone of the report was that manufacturers have not yet taken appropriate safety measures to protect drivers against hackers and those who may misuse drivers’ personal information.

Lawsuit Filed in California

At least partially in response to the senator’s report, a class action lawsuit (Cahen v. Toyota Motor Corporation) has been filed on behalf of the owners of automobiles that are vulnerable to hackers and others who would pose safety concerns.  The suit has three named plaintiffs – two from California and one from Oregon – but seeks to represent a class of others in California and across the country who are similarly situated. Ford, Toyota, and General Motors are named as defendants in the suit, as are an additional 50 defendants who are to be identified when their identities have been ascertained.

Allegations in the 238-Count Complaint

The 342-page federal lawsuit claims, among other things, that hackers may be able to take control of the basic functions of an automobile, thus endangering both the driver and any passengers who happen to be in the vehicle. The suit sets forth some 238 separate counts, alleging claims of breach of warranty, breach of contract, fraud, and violations of various state consumer laws. The plaintiffs seek class action certification, an injunction ordering the defendants to discontinue their “unlawful, deceptive, fraudulent, and unfair business practices,” injunctive relief in the form of a recall or free replacement program, costs, restitution, and damages, including punitive damages.

To Get Help with a Product Liability or Other Personal Injury Case

The “hacking and tracking” report and lawsuit are just the latest in a long line of recent concerns about the automotive industry. If you or a family member has been injured in a car crash, it is prudent to speak with an attorney about not only the wreck itself but about the possibility that the accident may have resulted from a defect. To schedule an appointment with one of our knowledgeable Cape Cod products liability and personal injury attorneys, call (888) 262- 6664 today. We represent clients in Hyannis and Plymouth, and we welcome the chance to review your case.

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