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A woman who was driving a BMW sport utility vehicle when the air bag unexpectedly deployed has filed a lawsuit in Miami-Dade Circuit Court alleging the German automaker illegally attempted to conceal the defect. Lizette Vale was not injured in the incident, which occurred while she was driving on U.S. 1 in Miami on April 19. She claims the air bag obstructed her view of the road and forced her to stop the vehicle immediately. Her mother, Yvonne Louis, who owned the SUV, is also a plaintiff in the suit. The suit, filed Monday in Miami-Dade Circuit Court, alleges that BMW required customers to sign a confidentiality agreement before the repairs would be covered under warranty. It seeks class action status on behalf of all other owners of BMW X5 SUVs manufactured between 2001 and 2004. The company’s actions violated the Florida Litigation in Sunshine law, which prohibits concealment of a “public hazard,” as well as the state’s Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act, the suit charges. The plaintiffs seek reimbursement for any X5 owner who paid for air bag repairs out of pocket, inspections and repairs for all other members of the class, an order enjoining the company from the use of confidentiality agreements in such cases, and attorney fees and costs. The two women are represented by lawyers Ervin Gonzalez of Colson Hicks Eidson in Coral Gables, Fla. and Ira Leesfield of Leesfield Leighton Rubio & Boyers in Miami. BMW of North America did not provide comment for this article by deadline. Vale alleges that when she brought her mother’s SUV into a BMW repair center in Miami, she was told she’d have to sign a confidentiality agreement if she wanted the air bag repairs to be done at no cost. Vale balked and took the car to a second dealer, where she was allegedly told the same thing, the suit says. According to the suit, Vale decided to pay $2,069 in repairs out of pocket and call her attorney instead. The lawsuit contends Vale was told by an agent at the South Motors Collision Center that improper deployments “happened two to three times per week” on vehicles such as Vale’s SUV. Said Gonzalez in an interview, “We think it’s shameful that BMW, rather than fixing the problem, then says ‘Let’s keep it our little secret.’”

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