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Supreme court rebuffs GM’s bid to limit ignition-switch lawsuits

GM Ignition Switch Lawsuits Latest News

Supreme court rebuffs GM’s bid to limit ignition-switch lawsuits

But the automaker is not yet close to putting the matter behind it and may now face years of additional litigation as a result of the latest legal turn in the case.

On Monday, the United States Supreme Court declined to review a lower-court ruling that the company was liable for claims for deaths or injuries arising before it filed for bankruptcy in 2009. The compensation fund that G.M. set up made payments to more than 100 such claimants, but a bankruptcy filing typically wipes out past liability, and G.M. had argued that point in court.

Last year, however, a federal appeals court said prebankruptcy claims could proceed. G.M. then asked the Supreme Court to review that ruling.

The Supreme Court’s rebuff means that several hundred remaining unsolved wrongful death and personal injury claims against G.M. could be sent to state courts for resolution or even trials.

“There are a lot of cases out there that either are going to have to be settled by G.M. or litigated, now that the Supreme Court is not getting involved,” said Robert C. Hilliard, a lawyer who is handling 243 claims against G.M. Among them are cases involving 27 deaths, Mr. Hilliard said.

He estimated that 1,000 or more outstanding cases remain.

The ignition switch at the heart of the matter was used mainly in the Chevrolet Cobalt and Saturn Ion small cars that G.M. started producing in 2002 and 2003. The switch had a tendency to turn off by itself, leaving the car without power and disabling its airbags.

G.M. engineers knew of the switch’s problems for years before the company issued limited recalls of affected models, and the trouble remained obscured as G.M. went through a federally financed bankruptcy in 2009. In 2014, as links between the switch and an increasing number of fatal crashes became clear, the company was forced to acknowledge that it had failed to respond quickly, and it recalled 2.6 million vehicles.

Eventually, G.M. paid $900 million to settle a federal criminal investigation, and set aside $594.5 million for a fund to compensate victims of switch-related crashes. That fund was managed by the compensation expert Kenneth R. Feinberg.

The ignition-switch troubles damaged G.M.’s reputation, led some automakers to move more quickly to issue recalls, and prompted federal safety regulators to push harder for fast action when safety issues are suspected. In 2015, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles was fined $70 million for failing to execute 23 recalls involving 11 million vehicles.

In a statement on Monday, G.M. reiterated that allowing prebankruptcy claims to move forward “doesn’t change the landscape” regarding GM ignition-switch lawsuits. “The plaintiffs must still establish their right to assert successor liability claims,” the company said. “From there, they still have to prove those claims have merit.”

How much G.M. might be liable for is hard to calculate. In injury and death cases, plaintiffs have to show that a defective switch caused the accident in which a victim was injured or killed. Some cases have been dismissed at trial because crashes were found to be related to other causes, such as impaired driving, or other contributing factors.

GM Ignition Switch

GM Ignition Switch Lawsuit // Monroe Law Group

What is the Problem with GM Ignition Switches?

In February 2014, General Motors recalled approximately 800,000 of its small vehicles over concerns about faulty ignition switches, which could cause the engine to shut off during use, thereby disabling the power steering and preventing the airbags from inflating properly in the event of an accident. Over the course of the next several months, GM continued to recall more of its cars allegedly equipped with defective ignition switches, ultimately resulting in a worldwide recall of nearly 30 million Chevrolet, Pontiac, Cadillac, Buick, Oldsmobile and Saturn vehicles. According to reports, the “switch detent plunger,” designed to provide the torque necessary to prevent the ignition from turning off unintentionally, failed to do so, allowing the car engines to shut off unexpectedly during use. Hundreds of injuries and fatalities were allegedly caused by the faulty ignition switches causing the car to turn off, disabling the vehicle’s power steering function and preventing the airbags from deploying.

Models Affected by the GM Ignition Switch Recall

General Motors has been accused of intentionally concealing information about the problem with its ignition switches, allowing consumers to continue using the potentially dangerous vehicles, and therefore contributing to at least 124 deaths and 275 non-fatal injuries involving cars equipped with faulty GM ignition switches. The GM vehicles affected by the ignition switch recall include the following models:

  • Buick Lacrosse 2005-2009
  • Buick Lucerne 2006-2011
  • Cadillac CTS 2003-2011
  • Cadillac Deville 2000-2005
  • Cadillac DTS 2006-2011
  • Cadillac SRX 2004-2006
  • Chevrolet Camaro 2010-2014
  • Chevrolet Cobalt 2005-2010
  • Chevrolet HHR 2006-2011
  • Chevrolet Impala 2000-2014
  • Chevrolet Malibu 1997-2005
  • Chevrolet Monte Carlo 2000-2007
  • Oldsmobile Alero 1999-2004
  • Oldsmobile Intrigue 1998-2002
  • Pontiac G5 2007-2010
  • Pontiac Grand Am 1999-2005
  • Pontiac Grand Prix 2004-2008
  • Pontiac Solstice 2006-2010
  • Saturn Ion 2003-2007
  • Saturn Sky 2007-2010

Compensation for Faulty Ignition Switches

During the course of the investigation launched by the federal government in the aftermath of the GM ignition switch recall, it was revealed that General Motors executives knew about the problem with the faulty ignition switches for at least a decade before issuing the recall in 2014. General Motors itself has linked the defective ignition switches to 124 deaths, nearly ten times the 13 death estimate GM executives initially reported in April 2014, although other sources have reported a death toll of at least 153. As part of a Deferred Prosecution Agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice, GM gave $600 million in compensation to surviving victims of accidents caused by faulty ignition switches, though a large number of lawsuits have also been filed against General Motors, by those claiming to have suffered injuries or lost loved ones in accidents involving recalled vehicles with defective switches.

Contact the Monroe Law Group today for expert GM ignition switch legal representation

The most alarming thing about the GM ignition switch problem is that something as simple as a heavy keychain could cause the ignition switches to unexpectedly shut off the vehicle engine during use, causing drivers to lose control of their power steering, and, in the event of a crash, preventing the airbags from deploying. If you were injured due to a defective GM ignition switch, or if you lost a loved one in an accident involving a recalled General Motors vehicle, don’t hesitate to discuss your claim with the experienced GM ignition switch attorneys at the Monroe Law Group. You may be entitled to reimbursement for your losses, which you can pursue by filing a personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit against General Motors.

Alert: Due to statute of limitations, the time you have to pursue a GM ignition switch claim is limited. Call us right away at 866-308-1092, email us at intake@monroelawgroup.com, or complete the form on this page now.

GM Ignition Switch Recall effects nearly 30 million Chevrolet, Pontiac, Cadillac, Buick, Oldsmobile and Saturn vehicles. Compensation is available for those involved in an accident due to a faulty ignition switch. // Monroe Law Group