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Following Suit: General Motors Recalls

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y May 2014, the General Motors faulty ignition recall had involved 1.6 million vehicles.

GM automotive lawsuits

The GM recall expanded on June 16, 2014 to include 3.36 million cars worldwide because they might suddenly switch off if their keys are carrying extra weight and the vehicles experience a “jarring event,” like hitting a pothole or crossing railroad tracks, according to the New York Times. A GM spokesman said vehicles in this latest recall had different ignition switches and systems from the recalled Cobalts and Saturn Ions switches.

As of June 9, more than 80 automotive lawsuits have been filed against the largest U.S. automaker, according to The Wall Street Journal. The GM lawsuits mostly seek repair costs and decreased resale value - from $500 to $1,000 per car. Car buyers have filed dozens of proposed class actions alleging that GM knew of automobile defects for more than a decade, putting GM customers at risk of injury and causing financial losses on their cars, including lower resale value.

Hundreds of lawsuits have also been filed alleging serious injuries from the auto defects. To date, approximately 54 automobile crashes and 13 deaths have been linked to ignition-switch-related airbag failures. Several wrongful death lawsuits claim that GM concealed information about the ignition switch.

In May, Judge Robert Gerber, of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Manhattan, urged settlement talks rather than a “monstrous battle” between GM and plaintiffs seeking compensation for their recalled defective cars due to the faulty ignition switch. A US Bankruptcy Court filing said GM said it is facing an additional 20 class-action suits filed since April 30. GM had previously asked the judge to rule that it isn’t liable for damage claims resulting from the company’s actions prior to its 2009 bankruptcy. However, a number of lawsuits allege that GM promoted its recalled vehicles as being safe and reliable pre-bankruptcy, that GM has successor liability, and that “new GM” bought and operated as “old GM” as a continuing business.

The above dispute doesn’t affect more than 250 GM automobile crash lawsuits that have been filed jointly by 12 law firms.

According to Bloomberg (April 18, 2014), lawsuits have also been filed in federal court in Santa Ana, California, against Continental Automotive Systems, alleging it supplied defective airbag systems to GM’s Chevrolet Cobalts, Saturn Ions and other models. The lawsuit, brought by 25 GM car buyers, seeks to represent a nationwide class of customers. The suit alleges that Continental was also aware of the ignition switch defect in GM cars as early as 2005. GM attorney Adam Levitt said that GM met with Continental regarding the investigation of a crash involving a 2005 Chevrolet Cobalt.

GM settlements

One car crash lawsuit involving the faulty ignition switch was settled after attorney Lance Cooper insisted that GM depose about 12 of its engineers and make public hundreds of documents showing that GM received reports of airbags failing in Cobalts from the 2008 through 2010 model years long before the recall. The most recent death occurred in December 2009.

As of August 1, Kenneth Feinberg, the leader of General Motors’ ignition-switch victim settlement fund, plans to accept claims for a limited amount of time, according to the Detroit Free Press. Feinberg will determine eligibility criteria and the size of settlements, which is said to reach billions of dollars. GM announced it will report an estimated total for settlements in its second-quarter earnings on July 24. At that time analysts say GM will announce whether victims who were sitting in the back seat of defective vehicles involved in accidents will be included in the settlements. To date, GM is not including back-seat victims.

Experts predict the faulty ignition-switch settlements will total $10 billion and a further 20 automotive class actions.

More than 5.8 million owners of 1973 to 1991 full-sized GM pickup trucks will finally be awarded compensation from a class-action lawsuit filed almost a decade ago, according to ABC News (April 23). Also included in the settlement are 1987 to 1991 R/V series pickup trucks and chassis cabs. The trucks had gas tanks mounted outside the frame, making them more likely to catch fire in side-impact crashes. GM is offering pickup truck owners a $1,000 certificate toward a new vehicle.

Chrysler recalls

Since 2005, Chrysler has issued 10 recalls.

The latest recall in June 2014 affects almost 11,000 SUVs (2014 Dodge Durangos and Jeep Cherokees, Grand Cherokees and high-performance Grand Cherokee SRTs assembled between January 16 and April 17). The auto defect can cause unintended acceleration in cruise-control mode, according to Reuters (June 5, 2014).

Also in June, Reuters reported that US safety regulators are investigating Chrysler’s recall in November 2012 of 744,822 SUVs after six consumers complained of inadvertent airbag deployments after repairs were made. Chrysler recalled the vehicles because airbag circuits could degrade.

In May 2014, Chrysler recalled 780,000 Dodge Caravans and Town & Country minivans combined. The power window switches can short-circuit and overheat or catch fire if moisture comes in contact with them. Chrysler had reported 36 incidents, some of which had involved fires.

In April 2014, Chrysler issued three separate recalls involving about 1.2 million Ram pickup trucks (in the US and Canada) for steering-system tie rods that may have been misaligned during assembly or steering-system service.

Chrysler automotive lawsuits

In November 2013, a Chrysler class action was filed alleging defective Chrysler Totally Integrated Power Module (TIPM) can cause numerous electrical problems and serious safety risks. The class-action complaint was filed in the Central District of California.

The class-action lawsuit further alleges Chrysler ignored problems with their model year 2008 Chrysler 300 and 2011-2012 model year Jeep Grand Cherokee, Dodge Grand Caravan, and Dodge Durango vehicles.

Toyota recall

On June 11, 2104, the Times reported that Toyota issued a recall affecting 2.3 million vehicles worldwide (766,000 vehicles in the US) because a defective airbag component made by Takata Corporation could injure passengers. Vehicles recalled are the 2003-4 Toyota Corolla, Matrix and Tundra, the 2002-4 Sequoia sport utility vehicle and the 2002-4 Lexus SC 430 luxury coupe.

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