Potentially Faulty GM Ignition Switch Leads to Class Action Lawsuit

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A class-action lawsuit was just brought against General Motors Co., over potentially faulty ignition switches, and that GM hid issues over these switches in some of its cars for years.

GM just issued a recall of 1.62 million cars, including Chevrolet Cobalts and Saturn Ions, over issues with the ignition switch, which have been associated with dozens of crashes and 12 deaths. Some believe the defect may be tied to air bag issues experienced with the cars, as well. The class action lawsuit, the third nationwide, was filed in Michigan federal court and was brought over the allegedly defective switch, wrote Detroit News.

According to this lawsuit, a Dearborn, Michigan man alleges that GM covered up the defect that involves his 2007 Cobalt, while also presenting the vehicles as safe. “All the while, GM had information that the defective GM vehicles were involved in crashes leading to fatalities, and did nothing to correct the problems or even to warn the public,” the lawsuit indicated, according to Detroit News. The Cobalt’s owner in this case told Detroit News, “I’m scared to drive the car…. If you drive on the highway and the car cuts off, it could cost you your life.”

GM’s chief executive, Mary T. Barra, still will not announce if a goodwill gesture such as GM accepting liabilities for crashes that took place in the post-bankruptcy GM would occur and would also not say if GM would create a victims’ fund, wrote Detroit News. The Center for Auto Safety has urged Barra to set aside $1 billion. Under GM’s bankruptcy agreement, the so-called “New GM” is not liable for those crashes that took place prior to GM’s Chapter 11 filing.

In a recent news conference, Barra promised to correct the flawed ignition switches and to also explain why GM never corrected the problem, although it is widely known that the automaker was aware of the issues for at least a decade, according to a The New York Times report. “Our goal is to make sure that something like this never happens again,” Barra has said. Barra has been in the CEO position for a little under two months.

Barra brought in a team of external attorneys to investigate the matter; however, according to the Times, she has not yet disciplined nor dismissed any staff who may have been potentially involved in the deadly ignition debacle. Barra has said the investigation may take months to complete and she does not plan on taking any action until she has all of the facts. “I know you want to know what happened,” she told reporters. “So do I,” she added, according to the Times.

During the recent press conference, Barra was asked if the recalled cars are safe to drive while repairs are pending, the Times reported. According to Barra, “If you have just the ring with the key, it is safe to drive.” Prior reports indicate that using a heavy key ring might trigger the defect that shuts the car down.

GM spokesman Alan Adler told USA Today that GM did not have a “robust enough investigation” into the ignition defect prior to last month’s recall and that GM is unclear how, or if, crash victims and their families will be compensated. “We are very sorry,” Adler said. “We are doing everything we can to make sure nothing like this ever happens again.”

A prior Times probe found that the NHTSA indicated that, since February 2003, it received about two complaints each month over possibly dangerous vehicle shutdowns. The last recorded complaint was filed about two weeks ago.