Car News

Counterfeit and Poor Quality Car Parts leads to Fatal Car Accident

A lawsuit has been filed against a rental company, auto auction company, used car retailer, manufacturer, and body shop following the death of a Florida woman due to allegedly counterfeit and poor car parts. The complaint, submitted to the Broward County Seventeenth Judicial Circuit Court on May 16, claims that Destiny Byassee was killed on June 12, 2023, when a counterfeit front driver-side airbag exploded “like a grenade,” sending metal and plastic shrapnel throughout the vehicle’s cabin.

“Ms. Byassee was a mother of two young children and had her entire life ahead of her. What should have been a minor collision turned deadly because of the alleged negligence of multiple companies,” John Morgan, an attorney representing Byassee’s estate, told NBC2 in Florida.

“She believed she was buying a safe and reliable vehicle, but our lawsuit alleges that several automotive companies worked to skirt the system by repairing what should’ve been a totaled vehicle, all just to make money. Because of that, Ms. Byassee lost her life, and her children will grow up without their mother.”

The lawsuit claims that Chinese company Jilin Province Detiannuo Safety Technology Co. is responsible for designing, manufacturing, selling, distributing, and shipping counterfeit airbags to the U.S. One of these airbags was installed in Byassee’s 2020 Chevrolet Malibu by Jumbo Automotive and Haim Levy, the owner of the shop, according to the suit.

“In 2022, the vehicle was involved in a collision that caused the front driver-side airbag and front driver-side seatbelt pretensioner to deploy,” the suit states. “The damage to the subject Chevy Malibu from the crash was so significant that the vehicle should have been classified as a total loss, issued a salvage title, and removed from service.”

Instead of being removed from service, the Malibu was sold to DriveTime through Manheim Auto Auction. Jumbo Automotive was hired to repair the vehicle before it was resold to Byassee, according to the complaint.

“In their effort to repair and replace the subject Chevy Malibu’s deployed front driver-side airbag, Jumbo and Levy purchased counterfeit and non-compliant airbag components that were designed, manufactured, and sold by Jilin and proceeded to install these components into the subject Chevy Malibu,” the suit states.

The lawsuit further claims that the seatbelt pretensioner was not repaired or replaced; instead, its wires were allegedly cut to make the seatbelt appear normal and functional to an unsuspecting buyer. During the fatal collision, the seatbelt pretensioner did not deploy correctly, and fragments from the front driver-side airbag struck Byassee in the face, head, and neck.

Jilin is accused of negligently placing defective components into the market and failing to ensure proper testing and quality assurance. The suit contends that Jilin had a duty to notify and warn owners and users of the defective and dangerous condition of the airbag components. Additionally, Jilin is alleged to have violated several Florida laws concerning counterfeit airbags and federal regulations regarding vehicle safety standards. insurance write off.

The lawsuit names several defendants for their alleged negligence:

  • Enterprise: For not removing the Malibu from service after its 2022 crash.
  • Manheim: For selling the vehicle despite knowing it was not serviceable or safe.
  • DriveTime: For selling the vehicle despite its defective airbag and inoperable seatbelt pretensioner.
  • Jumbo Automotive: For installing counterfeit and non-compliant airbag components and not repairing or replacing the seatbelt pretensioner.
  • Haim Levy: For purchasing and installing the counterfeit airbag components and manipulating the seatbelt pretensioner.

DriveTime is also accused of breaching an implied warranty of merchantability by selling the Malibu despite its unsafe condition. The lawsuit seeks various damages, including economic and non-economic losses, pain and suffering, and legal costs on behalf of Byassee’s estate.

“From our investigation, we believe this is a shockingly widespread issue — rental car companies reselling damaged vehicles and auto repair shops installing cheap, non-compliant parts from Chinese companies and cutting corners during the repair process to resell vehicles as quickly as possible,” plaintiff attorney Andrew Parker Felix told NBC2.

“Consumers need to be aware of these tactics used to save money, increase profits, and keep vehicles on the road when they pose a severe danger. We will work to hold all parties responsible for our client’s tragic death, and hope to stop these companies from engaging in such ruthless and deadly business practices.”