Mercedes-Benz agreeing to replace seat heaters after lawsuit

A federal judge has granted preliminary approval of a lawsuit settlement requiring Mercedes-Benz to replace seat heaters in up to 270,000 SUVs.

Southern California-based Judge James Selna preliminarily approved the potentially $80 million settlement on Monday.

The plaintiffs argue that seat heaters in some Mercedes-Benz SUVs made between 2000 and 2007 have been known to spark or smoke.

"We believe this seat heater defect presents a serious safety risk," Scott Sims, one of the plaintiffs' attorneys in the case, said in a statement.

Elizabeth Callaway, a California woman who filed the lawsuit in 2014, said the seat heater in her 2006 Mercedes-Benz R350 burned a hole through her dress and caused her pain.

No one is known to have been seriously injured by the heaters.

Mercedes-Benz has denied its heaters are defective and said in court filings that Callaway "did nothing to treat the so-called 'injury.' "

"There was no blister and no scar," Mercedes-Benz wrote in a court filing seeking to dismiss the case. "(Callaway) compared the 'little redness' to the type of superficial burn one might sustain while cooking, such as from a 'splash of hot water' or 'hot oil splatter.' "

But under the settlement, Mercedes-Benz is agreeing to replace the heaters in question or reimburse customers who have already paid for replacements.

Attorneys representing Mercedes-Benz in the case and spokespeople for the company didn't immediately return messages seeking comment on Friday.