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GM Recalls 1.2 Million Vehicles Due to Side-Impact Airbag Defect

Dec 21, 2016

If Service Light is Ignored, Side Airbags May Not Deploy

GM Recalls 1.2M Vehicles Due to Side-Impact Airbag Defect

Due to an issue with side-impact airbags, General Motors (GM) has recalled 1.2 million popular crossover SUV models. The recall affects the 2008-13 Buick Enclave and the GMC Acadia, along with the 2009-13 Chevrolet Traverse and the 2008-2010 Saturn Outlook. The wiring for the mounted side airbags needs to be repaired in these vehicles. The airbag issue may trigger a warning light that reads "Service Air Bag". GM says that if customers ignore the warning light, the side airbags may ultimately fail to deploy.

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 affects roughly 1.2 million vehicles from model years 2008 to 2013, including:

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

GM says that the wiring harness connectors for the side airbags, when subjected to corrosion or loose crimps, can cause increased resistance. The airbag issue may cause non-deployment of all side-impact restraints, including the driver and passenger seat-mounted side air bags, the front center airbag and the seat belt pretensioners. The recall was issued in March 2014.

Reportedly, the company knew about the issue since 2008. At least two warranty claims were filed for over 6,800 vehicles due to a "Service Air Bag" warning light, an engineer found during a 2010 investigation. Reportedly, GM investigated the side airbag issue four times and issued six service bulletins to dealers informing them of the problem. Initially, GM was reportedly not planning to issue a recall, and instead wanted to implement a "customer-satisfaction campaign".

General Motors Faces Lawsuits Over Deadly Ignition Switch Defect

GM Faces Lawsuits Over Deadly Ignition Switch

Parker Waichman comments that GM continues to face lawsuits involving its ignition switch defect. The automaker came under severe criticism after recalling some 30 million vehicles in 2014. The cars contained an ignition switch defect linked to 124 deaths. GM came under fire for recalling the vehicles a decade after identifying the defect.

Recalled vehicles include: 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.

The recall was issued because the ignition switch can inadvertently switch from the "run" to the "accessory" position. This defect tends to occur when there is weight on the keys or a jarring event on the road. Switching out of the run position cuts power to the engine unexpectedly. Subsequently, drivers lose access to key safety features such as airbags. Ignition switch defects were implicated in 124 deaths; GM has a compensation fund of $595 million for the victims’ families, but the company is also facing ignition switch defect lawsuits.

The recall began in February 2014, and initially affected 800,000 vehicles. GM expanded the recall over the following months. In total, 30 million vehicles were recalled globally due to a faulty ignition switch.

Lawsuits mounted quickly in light of the ignition switch recall. A multidistrict litigation (MDL) established for GM ignition switch defect lawsuits grew quickly in two short years. The U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) creates MDLs, which consolidate similar lawsuits to one court, in order to make complex litigation more efficient. MDLs eliminate duplicate discovery and streamline the legal process. In the GM ignition switch MDL, plaintiffs allege that the faulty ignition switch caused a car accident and that GM failed to address the defect appropriately.

Bellwether cases are the first lawsuits in an MDL to go to trial. Bellwether plaintiffs typically represent most of the litigation, and the outcome is used to predict how the remaining lawsuits would proceed. Bellwether trials provide an opportunity for both parties to test their arguments out in court for the first time.

GM agreed to settle two bellwether cases over faulty ignition switches in September 2016. The plaintiffs were injured in a car accident, allegedly caused by the defective ignition switch. One of the cases was scheduled to begin trial on Sept. 12, 2016. The lawsuits were settled for an undisclosed amount. According to USA Today, GM has settled three ignition switch defect bellwether cases before trial.

In addition to individual lawsuits, two class action lawsuits have also been filed over the ignition switch defect. GM is facing one lawsuit in California federal court and another filed by a Pennsylvania man. In July 2014, an ignition switch defect lawsuit was filed on behalf of 658 people. The plaintiffs alleged that the faulty ignition switch caused injuries or death.

State governments are also suing GM with regards to the ignition switch recall. The Orange County District Attorney filed a lawsuit on behalf of the People of the State of California alleging that GM engaged in unfair competition and false advertising by failing to disclose the ignition switch defect. The company allegedly violated California law.

Some lawsuits also name Delphi Automotive, who manufactured the defective switches, as defendants.

GM agreed to pay $900 million in a criminal settlement over the ignition switch defect in September 2015. In entering into a Deferred Prosecution Agreement with the U.S. 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 was severely criticized for the way it addressed the ignition switch defect, specifically the fact that it took years to recall the vehicles. Internal investigations found that GM was aware of the defect since the early 2000s. Before recalling the vehicle, the auto maker issued an advisory through dealers advising that owners take everything off the car key to reduce the likelihood of the weight shutting down the engine.

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 faced challenges with the recall itself, due to the massive volume and the fact that many cars are no longer with the original owner.

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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