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GM Faces Lawsuits over Ignition Switch Recall, Power Steering Defect

Jan 9, 2017

GM Sued over Ignition Switch Recall, Linked to 124 Deaths

GM Faces Suits over Ignition Switch Recall, Power Steering

Litigation continues to mount against General Motors over its ignition switch defect, which led to a massive recall in 2014. The faulty ignition switch, which can unexpectedly cut power to the engine, causes the driver to lose access to key features such as power steering. Some 30 million vehicles were affected by the ignition switch defect, which was linked to 124 deaths. GM came under fire after evidence showed the company knew of the defect a decade prior to recalling the vehicles.

Parker Waichman LLP has decades of experience representing clients in product liability lawsuits involving allegedly defective and dangerous products. The firm continues to offer free legal consultations to individuals with questions about filing an ignition switch defect lawsuit.

The recall started in February 2014, when GM recalled roughly 800,000 vehicles with a faulty ignition switch. The defect caused the ignition switch to inadvertently slip into the "accessory" position from the "run" position, particularly when there is a bump in the road or too much weight on the keys. If the ignition switch defect occurs, drivers lose access to key safety features while driving such as power steering and airbags. In the months that followed, GM issued several more recalls. Ultimately, the ignition switch defect affected 30 million cars worldwide.

The ignition switch recall affected vehicles including: 2005-2010 Chevrolet Cobalt, 2007-2010 Pontiac G5, 2003-2007 Saturn Ion, 2006-2011 Chevrolet HHR, 2006-2010 Pontiac Solstice and 2007-2010 Saturn Sky vehicles.

Numerous ignition switch defect lawsuits were filed against GM after the recall. Lawsuits have been filed on behalf of individuals who allege that they were injured due to the ignition switch defect; plaintiffs allege that GM failed to protect consumers from the faulty ignition switch, despite knowing about the problem years prior.

The U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) consolidated federal lawsuits into a multidistrict litigation (MDL), a type of mass tort where similar lawsuits are transferred to one court before one judge. Transferring lawsuits into an MDL eliminates duplicate discovery and streamlines legal proceedings. The goal is to make complex litigation faster and more efficient. Unlike a class action lawsuit, lawsuits in an MDL remain separate.

GM agreed to pay $900 million in a criminal settlement in September 2015. The settlement opened a compensation fund of $595 million for the families of victims who died due to an ignition switch defect. Under the Deferred Prosecution Agreement with the United States Department of Justice, GM admitted that "from in or about the spring of 2012 through in or about February 2014, GM failed to disclose a deadly safety defect to its U.S. regulator... It also falsely represented to consumers that vehicles containing the defect posed no safety concern."

GM settled two ignition switch bellwether cases in 2016. Bellwether cases are the first lawsuits in an MDL selected for trial. These cases are used as an indicator for the remaining litigation. For example, if juries award large verdicts to the plaintiffs, defendants may be more inclined to settle. According to USA Today, GM has settled three bellwether cases before trial. Court documents show that one trial was scheduled to begin on Sept. 12, 2016.

In addition to individual lawsuits, class action lawsuits have also been filed over the ignition switch recall. In July 2014, one class action lawsuit was filed on behalf of 658 plaintiffs in California federal court, court records indicate.

State governments have also taken legal action regarding the ignition switch recall. One lawsuit was filed on behalf of the People of the State of California by the Orange County District Attorney. The suit alleges that, by failing to warn about the faulty ignition switch, GM violated California law, engaged in unfair competition and false advertising. Some GM ignition switch recall lawsuits also name Delphi Automotive, who manufactured the ignition switches, as a defendant.

GM was severely criticized for the ignition switch recall, specifically after internal investigations showed that the company knew about the ignition switch since the early 2000s but did not recall the vehicles until 2014. Before launching the massive recall, GM issued an advisory telling drivers to take everything off their car key to reduce the likelihood of the ignition switch defect. If the car unexpectedly shifts into accessory mode, the driver can lose control of the vehicle, the air bags will fail to deploy in the event of an accident, and the power brakes will no longer work.

GM Recalls Vehicles Due to Side Airbag Defect

GM Recalls Vehicles Due to Side Airbag Defect

GM has also recalled vehicles due to other defects. In March 2014, the company recalled 1.2 million popular crossover SUV models due to a side airbag defect in which the airbag may fail to deploy. The following vehicles were affected:

  • 2008-2013 Buick Enclave
  • 2008-2013 GMC Acadia
  • 2009-2013 Chevrolet Traverse
  • 2008-2010 Saturn Outlook

The side airbag defect occurs when the wiring harness connectors are exposed to corrosion or loose crimps, increasing resistance. This can cause failure of all side-impact restraints, including the driver and passenger seat-mounted side air bags, the front center airbag and the seat belt pretensioners.

GM allegedly learned of the side airbag defect in 2008. Additionally, during a 2010 investigation an engineer found that over 6,800 vehicles were involved in at least two warranty claims regarding a "Service Air Bag" warning light. GM reportedly probed the issue four times. The company issued six service bulletins to dealers notifying them of the side airbag defect. Initially, GM was reportedly not planning to issue a recall; the company reportedly planned to conduct a "customer-satisfaction campaign".

Parker Waichman is keeping up-to-date with GM automobile recalls and other types of recalls. The firm continues to offer free legal consultations to individuals with questions about filing a lawsuit.

Filing a GM Ignition Switch Defect Lawsuit, Airbag Defect Lawsuit

If you or someone you know is interested in filing a GM ignition switch defect lawsuit or airbag defect lawsuit, contact one of our product liability lawyers today. Parker Waichman offers free, no-obligation case evaluations. For more information, fill out our online form or call 1-800-YOURLAWYER (1-800-968-7529).


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