A defective ignition switch in cars manufactured by General Motors (GM) has been linked to at least thirteen deaths over the past decade, and the company has recalled millions of vehicles during the first few months of 2014. The CEO of GM has been called to testify before Congress, and various public figures have called for investigations and prosecutions. Several lawsuits have been filed, including an emergency motion seeking to speed up the recall process. Individuals who have already settled with GM are reportedly considering seeking to overturn their settlement agreements.
A component of the ignition switch in many GM cars is at the center of the problem. The defective part, called a switch indent plunger, keeps pressure of the ignition switch to keep it from turning off while the car is in motion. Shutting off the ignition disables anti-lock brakes, airbags, power steering, and all other electrical components, which can be disastrous while a car is in motion. The part was not able to apply enough torque to keep the ignition from turning off if the ignition key had too much weight on it, such as if the driver had numerous other keys on a keychain. Ignition shut-offs because of this defect have resulted in multiple crashes and at least thirteen fatalities.
GM began recalling Cobalts, Ions, and other small-model cars in February 2014. The company reportedly notified its dealers about the defect in 2005. The recall affects more than 2.5 million vehicles. The company maintains that recalled vehicles are safe if the driver removes everything else from the keyring with the ignition key, minimizing the pressure on the ignition switch.
One couple sought to speed up the recall and warning process through their lawsuit against GM. They filed an emergency motion for an injunction that would require GM to send a “park it now” notice to all customers affected by the recall, warning them not to drive until the defect had been fixed. Silvas v. General Motors, No. 2:14-cv-00089, emerg. motion (S.D. Tex., Mar. 24, 2014). The court denied the motion, however, holding that primary jurisdiction for such a matter resides with the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration in Washington DC, which regulates auto safety nationwide.
Lawsuits against GM, such as the Silvas case, generally plead causes of action for negligence and products liability. They allege that GM breached its duties to identify safety defects in their vehicles; give notice of the defect, and any associated risks, to consumers; and repair the defect. Some plaintiffs are also suing Delphi Automotive, which manufactured the defective part, for products liability. The plaintiffs’ injuries, many lawsuits claim, were reasonably foreseeable by GM, especially since they have allegedly known about the defect for as long as ten years, and consumers would not be able to discover the defect on their own. The issue of alleged concealment of the defect has led some people, who have settled their claims against GM, to pursue court orders overturning the settlement agreements on the ground of fraud.
The products liability lawyers at Lebowitz & Mzhen help people in the Washington, DC area recover compensation for injuries caused by defective or dangerous products. To schedule a free and confidential consultation to see how we may assist you, contact us today online or at (800) 654-1949.
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