More than three years after General Motors (GM) recalled 2.5 million of its 2005-2010 Chevy Cobalts, Pontiacs, and Saturns, the company recently lost its bid to prevent an Arizona driver some seeking damages for ignition-switch liability. The plaintiff, Dennis Ward, alleges that he was driving a 2009 Chevy HHR on March 27, 2014, when he rear-ended another driver in Tucson. The reason why he rear-ended the driver, he alleges, is because his vehicle “suddenly and unexpectedly lost power,” thus disabling his brakes and steering.
Faulty Ignition Switches
Beginning in 2001, several models of GM brands were fitted with an ignition switch that was found to be defective, causing cars to suddenly shut off while still in gear. These faulty switches could cause a loss of power steering, disable brakes, and prevent airbags from inflating. In some models, the key could even be removed from the ignition switch when it was not in the “off” position, which could cause the vehicle to roll away. The switches have been linked to at least 124 deaths and nearly 300 injuries. Once GM became aware of the problems associated with these ignition switches, it initiated a recall of about 800,000 vehicles in 2014, which was eventually expanded to over 30 million vehicles once the scale of the problem became apparent.
GM Multidistrict Litigation
The ignition switch lawsuits that began pouring in after the recall are all being managed by the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, under the theory that having all plaintiffs with similar complaints see a single judge in the same district will be more efficient for all parties involved. The lawsuits in the cases allege three common charges:
- False promotion and marketing by GM its vehicles as safe, reliable, and high-quality
- Inaccurate claims in marketing materials about GM’s prioritization of safety and quality in the company’s manufacturing processes
- The actual physical defects of the ignition switches, of which GM has acknowledged being aware and hiding from both consumers and the government
The company has, to date, paid out $2 billion in fines, penalties, and settlements related to this litigation
Mr. Ward’s Case
Ward’s case is unusual because most of the ignition switch cases against GM involved the company’s “423 switch,” while the switch in Ward’s car was a 190 switch. His lawsuit comes on the heals of a District Court defeat for GM, in which the company had sought to block several dozen ignition-switch cases that it argued it was not liable for since it had filed for bankruptcy in 2009. Nevertheless, the court found that GM had raised enough doubts about its liabilities over the 190 switch to prevent it from averting a new trial, thus allowing Ward’s case to proceed.
Contact an Atlanta Products Liability Attorney Today for a Free Consultation
If you have been injured by a defective automotive product, you may be able to seek compensation from the manufacturer. Contact the attorneys at Slappey & Sadd for a free consultation to discuss your case by calling 404.255.6677. We serve the entire state of Georgia, including the following locations: Atlanta, Marietta, and Sandy Springs.