Defective Product Alert: Chrysler Ignition Switch Recall

Hidden amidst the enormous recalls by GM, Chrysler quietly announced on Monday that it, too, would recall 696,000 sport utility vehicles and minivans made between 2007 and 2009 over a concern that the ignition key might turn off the engine.  It is unclear yet whether those recalls are due to the same parts manufacturer, or heightened attention to these recall problems.

Defective Product Update: GM Ignition Switch Recall Expanded to 7.55 million more vehicles

According to the USA Today  GM announced yesterday that it is recalling “about 7.55 million vehicles in the US, vastly expanding the number of cars snared into the automaker’s deadly ignition-switch scandal.”  The New York Times has now called it GM’s “safety crisis,” bringing “total figures for the year above 28 million cars — more than the 22 million recalled last year by all automakers combined.” GM officials reportedly claim that the company “was aware of seven crashes, eight injuries and three fatalities in the recalled vehicles, but said that there was no conclusive evidence that a defect had caused them.”

The GM cars involved in the ignition switch recall are:

Production Part Vehicles

  • Chevrolet Cobalt (Model Years 2005-2007)
  • Chevrolet HHR (Model Years 2006-2007)
  • Daewoo G2X (Model Year 2007)
  • Opel/Vauxhall GT (Model Year 2007)
  • Pontiac G4 (Model Years 2005-2006)
  • Pontiac G5 (Model Year 2007)
  • Pontiac Pursuit (Model Years 2005-2006)
  • Pontiac Solstice (Model Years 2006-2007)
  • Saturn Ion (Model Years 2003-2007)
  • Saturn Sky (Model Year 2007)

Service Part Vehicles

  • Chevrolet Cobalt (Model Years 2008-2010)
  • Chevrolet HHR (Model Years 2008-2011)
  • Daewoo G2X (Model Years 2008-2009)
  • Opel/Vauxhall GT (Model Years 2008-2010)
  • Pontiac G5 (Model Years 2008-2010)
  • Pontiac Solstice (Model Years 2008-2010)
  • Saturn Sky (Model Years 2008-2010)

Defective Product Update: GM Ignition Switch Compensation Plan Announced

The New York Times reported today that General Motors announced a plan to distribute money to victims of crashes caused by the faulty GM ignition switch.  The payouts related to the GM recall have a “1$ million starting point” and could total in the billions of dollars. Developed by Kenneth R. Feinberg, the “go-to man” for running the compensation funds for victims of catastrophes, the GM ignition switch plan is “broad and inclusive, and seems certain to account for deaths beyond the 13 that G.M. has publicly linked to the defect.”  There is no cap on the ignition switch fund and apparently GM will not invoke bankruptcy protection to avoid claims before July 10, 2009.

The criteria for claims were described as “flexible” and include victims of rear and side-impact crashes.  The two main criteria are:

(1)        the crash must have involved one of the models of cars that the company has recalled for the defective switch, including Chevrolet Cobalts, Saturn Ions and others (for a complete list; and

(2)        there must be evidence that the air bags did not deploy.

Mr. Feinberg said the compensation plan would look into additional evidence of airbag deployment other than the car’s “black box” computer system.  The GM ignition switch compensation plan apparently accounts for those who were treated for less-severe injuries, including people who have fully recovered. Any claimant that was treated either at a hospital or an outpatient medical facility within 48 hours of the accident is eligible to file a claim. For those claims that are accepted—and there is no guarantee that GM will “accept” the claim—the “formula is $20,000 for one night in the hospital; $70,000 for two to seven overnights; $170,000 for eight to 15 overnights; up to a maximum of $500,000 for 32 or more overnights. People treated on an outpatient basis could receive a maximum of $20,000.” Some families may choose a different review system if they have “exceptional circumstances” that deserve a higher payment.

Importantly, there is a limited time to file a claim: August 1, 2014 to December 31, 2014, so do not delay.  Mr. Feinberg said that filing claim with GM would not prohibit a family from pursuing a lawsuit; only accepting them money would.

Given the flexibility and uncertainty in the GM ignition switch claims process, you should consider hiring an experienced product liability attorney if you were involved in a crash that may have been caused by the faulty ignition switches.  We here at SGB think that our Product Liability Team fits that bill, and would be pleased to speak with you about such a claim.

Defective Product Update: GM Recalls Another 29,000 Vehicles; Possibly More GM Recalls Coming

They just keep on coming for General Motors. According to the Detroit Free Press, GM announced it is “recalling 29,019 Chevrolet Cruzes from the 2013 and 2014 model years because of air bags built with an incorrect part.” GM had ordered its dealers to stop selling the cars earlier this week. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said that “some of the Cruzes have a driver air bag inflator built with an incorrect part that could cause the inflator to rupture during a deployment. In a crash, this may cause air bag components to separate and be propelled inside the car, possibly striking occupants. It’s also possible the air bag may not inflate in the case of a crash.”  This defect is apparently unrelated to the now-infamous ignition switch defect that had been tied to 13 deaths, more than 50 crashes, four investigations and the firing of 15 employees by CEO Mary Barra.

Meanwhile, the NBC Nightly News (6/26, story 5) reported that GM CEO Mary Barra said on Thursday that it is “possible there could be even more recalls beyond the 20 million vehicles already affected by this series of problems the company has identified.” The picture will not get any rosier and the New York Times reported that Senate investigators are expanding the scope of their investigation into GM’s defective ignitions, examining Delphi, “the supplier that made the flawed part.”  The supplier is expected to be the subject of a Senate Commerce Committee hearing soon.

If you were in a major collision with significant injuries and the collision involved a GM car, it might be worth your while to consult with an attorney to see if the collision was related to any of the known defects. Here in Washington State, SGB and its product liability and GM defect attorneys are available to investigate the cause of  your motor vehicle accident.

Product Liability Lawyers: Keeping Consumers Safe

I wanted to share with our readership an important publication concerning product safety, put out by the American Association for Justice, via its “driven to safety” outfit.    

AAJ is often vilified by Corporate America.  From this, the  general public is misled into thinking that our court system is clogged with frivolous injury lawsuits that raise insurance rates and harm consumers. Not so. The research doesn’t support any of the allegations. I’ll save that debate for another day.  But I do want to make just a quick point about what I believe is overlooked in the discussion. First, there are numerous barriers one must overcome before ever filing a lawsuit –– plaintiffs attorneys regularly must say no to injured clients, oftentimes because the costs or the risk are disproportionately high compared to the damage the person has suffered. Rarely do we hear about an allegation that other kinds of cases –– of which there are many –– are clogging our courts. The media simply doesn’t point to any of the following as being unnecessarily entangled in the court system: disputes among business partners;  divorce litigation;  commercial litigation involving one business suing another; patent litigation; and the list goes on and on. It’s principally “tort” litigation that gets the bad wrap.  Those in support of corporate interests are able to use their influence and their power to direct the spotlight on these alleged ills of tort litigation. This is unfortunate.  As the GM recall demonstrates,  it was the very tort litigation system that unraveled the efforts by GM to keep critical information from the public. It’s about time we disabused those who swallow all the misinformation and propaganda surrounding tort law.  The GM case is but one example of something we can be proud of: our tort system