General Motors (GM) recalled an additional 3.36 million cars in North America for issues stemming from a defect in the ignition switch that, if jarred out of position, suddenly turns off the engine and deactivates the airbags. The defect also disables the vehicle’s power steering and brakes.
Ignition Switch Defect – GM Recalls:
- Buick Lacrosse (2005-2009);
- Chevrolet Impala (2006-2014);
- Cadillac DeVille (2000-2005);
- Cadillac DTS (2004-2011);
- Buick Lucerne (2006-2011);
- Buick Regal LS and RS (2004-2005); and
- Chevrolet Monte Carlo (2006-2008).
GM acknowledged that 8 crashes and 6 injuries, but no fatalities, have been tied to their most recent recall. GM issued a similar recall in February – 2.6 million cars for the same ignition switch defect. In all, reports indicate that GM’s ignition switch defect has caused 13 deaths and 54 accidents. However, some experts believe the number of accidents linked to the ignition switch defect to be closer to 100.
GM’s internal investigations uncovered that the ignition switches used in the Chevrolet Cobalt and Saturn Ion models were approved despite the fact that they failed to meet GM specifications. In 2004, GM engineers received reports from customers complaining of stalling caused by a defect in the ignition switch. But the company’s engineers classified the problem as a customer convenience issue, not a potential safety problem. Because the defect was classified as “a customer convenience issue,” rather than a safety issue, the ignition switch defect was overlooked as a cost consideration. A GM engineer requested the part suppler, Delphi, to change the switch but failed to properly document the request; further delaying discovery of the defect.
Since February, over 80 lawsuits have been filed against GM for ignition switch defects.
Some lawsuits seek only minimal damages for repair costs and depreciation in resale value. Other lawsuits seek compensatory damages for injuries and deaths alleged to have been caused by the defective ignition switch. Incredibly, GM’s 2009 bankruptcy filing could potentially bar personal injury and/or wrongful death lawsuits that arose on or before GM filed for bankruptcy in 2009. Plaintiffs’ attorneys are asking that the lawsuits be permitted because GM knew about the defects before GM filed for bankruptcy. A U.S. bankruptcy judge will rule on the issue of whether GM’s 2009 bankruptcy insulates the corporation from pre-bankruptcy claims by the end of this summer.
GM Is Not the Only Automaker Issuing Recalls Worldwide for Defective Products
Honda, Mazda, and Nissan recently recalled an approximate 3 million vehicles to repair an air bag defect. According to reports, driver-side and passenger-side airbags manufactured by the Takata Corporation have the potential to explode shrapnel at passengers. Takata admitted that it failed to properly store chemicals used in the manufacturing process, and that it erred in its manufacturing of the propellants that initiate the airbags.
Automakers have already recalled a staggering 28 million vehicles this year. The defects that have surfaced render the vehicles unsafe, and place the vehicles outside of the manufacturing standards required by the law.
If you, or a loved one, have been injured by any of the above defects, you should contact a products liability lawyer in Pennsylvania or New Jersey to discuss your legal rights.
Like the faulty ignition switch defect, the defects disclosed by the other automakers increase the risk of injury to the vehicle’s passengers and other motorists. Litigation in this area is very complex. In addition to the car manufacturer, products liability litigation can also involve the part manufacturer and insurance companies. Slade McLaughlin and Paul Lauricella have experience with Pennsylvania and New Jersey product liability law.