General Motors Company has been in the news recently regarding a number of its cars found to have faulty ignition switches. General Motors has voluntarily recalled over 1.6 million vehicles in response to this problem, but a new product liability lawsuit against the automobile giant includes plaintiffs who own a wider range of vehicles than those already recalled.
The new lawsuit, which seeks nationwide class action status, was filed in San Francisco by a coalition of 10 different law firms on behalf of 13 plaintiffs. The suit claims that, in addition to the ignition switches themselves being faulty, GM’s Chevy Cobalts from a number of model years as late as 2010 had ignition switches poorly placed on the steering column. Due to this poor placement, drivers tended to accidentally put their keys in “accessory” position while driving. In this position, the vehicles’ airbags are inoperable, even in the event of a car accident. An airbag not operating during a car accident can greatly increase the severity of injury and even death.
GM has already recalled Cobalt models from 2005 through 2007, as well as Saturn Ions from 2003 through 2007, for having the faulty switch. The company has admitted to the problems with the ignition switch in the recalled cars being the cause of 12 known traffic fatalities. The San Francisco lawsuit claims that GM was aware of the ignition switch problems as early as 2001. In fact, some GM documents show that engineers at GM even suggested a remedy for the problem, which was rejected by the company. The lawsuit claims that the poor placement of the ignition switch on Chevrolet Cobalts was still a problem in models from 2008 through 2010, three years beyond those of the recall. During that time, there were almost 400,000 Cobalts sold in the U.S. alone.
Wrongful Death Lawsuit Due To Faulty Ignition Switch
In a related case, an Alabama man recently lost his daughter when she lost control of her 2006 Chevrolet Cobalt and died in the resultant collision. The lawsuit alleges that Steve Smith’s daughter, Aubrey Wallace Williams, lost control when the ignition switch failed while she was driving on the highway, causing the engine to shut off and the power steering and power brakes to fail as well. Mr. Smith has brought a wrongful death lawsuit in Alabama state court, naming both GM and Delphi Automotive as defendants. Delphi is the manufacturer of the faulty ignition switches. In his suit, Mr. Smith claims that GM was aware of problems with this particular switch, but concealed the information about it because the cost of recalling and replacing the switch in such a wide range of cars would be prohibitive.
When vehicle manufacturers put cars with faulty components on the road, and someone is injured or killed due to those components, the auto companies and/or parts manufacturers may be held liable for damages. Personal injury, product liability, and wrongful death lawsuits may help victims receive compensation for losses due to car accidents that may have been caused by faulty products.