General Motors is recalling more than 1.3 million cars to repair a serious defect with the ignition switch that could cause the cars’ engines to lose power while in motion, and without warning.
The issue affects 2005-2007 Chevrolet Cobalts, 2006-2007 Chevrolet HHRs, 2007 Pontiac G5, 2003-2007 Saturn Ions and 2007 Saturn Sky vehicles. This defect is responsible for many accidents and multiple deaths. Under products liability law, which is intended to provide access to the courts for personal injuries and wrongful deaths when harm results from defective products that pose an unreasonable risk of injury or death, victims may have claims to pursue, but two potential obstacles may have to be addressed depending on when the accident occurred: 1) GM may claim that its bankruptcy and reorganization operate to immunize it from liability for accidents that caused certain injuries or deaths, and 2) GM may claim that the statutes of limitations in various states may have expired (although a question may arise as to whether the bankruptcy filing itself delayed the running of the statutes of limitations in particular cases).
It will also be natural for questions to arise as to whether GM disclosed all it was obligated to disclose during the course of the bankruptcy proceedings, and it may be that a greater release of internal GM documents and digital information will be sought as a result of GM’s having sought the protections afforded by bankruptcy. In asbestos disease litigation, when Johns-Manville corporate entities pursued Chapter 11 reorganization in the 1980s, large numbers of previously undisclosed documents became available and subject to scrutiny as to what the manufacturer knew and when it knew it.
NHTSA is reporting that in the affected vehicles, the weight on the key ring and/or road conditions or some other jarring event may cause the ignition switch to move out of the run position, turning off the engine. The sudden loss of power makes for a dangerous scenario and because the vehicle has no power, the car’s airbags would fail to deploy upon impact.
GM dealers will replace those switches for free. In the meantime, the automaker recommends that owners of these cars cut unnecessary clutter from their key rings.
More recent news includes GM’s announcement of an internal investigation led by an outside lawyer with previous experience investigating corporate wrongdoing and the Department of Justice’s announcement of a criminal investigation, and further, that GM may have known of the defective nature of the key/ignition system as early as 2001.
Dealers will replace those switches for free. In the meantime, the automaker recommends that owners of these cars cut unnecessary clutter from their key rings. For the full recall click here: NHTSA Recall
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