GM Defective Ignition Switch Lawsuit + Recall Facts

Michael Bennett
July 1, 2017 - 453 Views

General Motors (GM) has received a ton of negative attention lately for allegedly delaying the recall of 2.6 million vehicles with defective ignition switches. According to the recall, the faulty ignition switch could cause the engine to stall, resulting in a loss of vehicle control as well as loss of power steering, power brakes and front airbags. Here are a list of GM cars affected by the airbag recall issue.

According to reports, GM issued the defective ignition switch recall in February 2014 even though the problem was detected in 2001. After a three-year investigation, the government found that GM knowingly withheld information about the defective auto part for more than a decade before issuing the recall. GM is no longer under government supervision but has proposed a monthly meeting with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to continue discussions about the safety of its products.

We have been following the GM recall and realize consumers may have questions about the faulty switches and how the recall could affect them and their loved ones. As a result, we have compiled the following list of facts we believe consumers should know about the recall and its current status:

  1. Recalled vehicle list: GM vehicles affected by the ignition switch recall include:
    1. All 2005-2010 Chevrolet Cobalt
    2. 2007-2010 Pontiac G5
    3. 2003-2007 Saturn Ion
    4. 2006-2011 Chevrolet HHR
    5. 2006-2010 Pontiac Solstice
    6. 2007-2010 Saturn Sky
  1. Why the recall? The recall involves a risk that, if bumped, the ignition switch could move out of the “run” position, resulting in the stalling of the vehicle and loss of driver control. This would also kill the power steering and power brakes. If the ignition is in the “off” position, the airbags would also be shut off, essentially putting the driver and passengers at an even greater risk for serious injury and death since the airbags would fail to deploy in the case of an accident.
  2. Cluttered key chains could trigger the defect: GM asked vehicle owners to remove other items and keys from their key rings until the defect was fixed. Extra keys could bump the ignition switch, causing it to move from the “run” position to the “off” position.
  3. Hundreds of people have been seriously injured and killed as a result of the defect: To date, the defect has been linked to more than 120 deaths and 275 injuries.
  4. GM to pay billions over the defect: According to reports, GM has already paid approximately $2.5 billion in settlement fees and penalties involving the defect. The automaker has already agreed to settle federal lawsuits involving the faulty switches on behalf of more than 200 plaintiffs. While terms of the settlements are confidential, this could prove promising for the hundreds of lawsuits pending in state courts.
  5. Lawsuits are now part of the multidistrict litigation (MDL) being held in New York by U.S. District Judge Jesse Furman. Under MDL federal civil cases are transferred to one court and are managed by one judge. Cases that do not settle or are not dismissed during MDL are sent back to the court where it originated and sent to trial. The purpose of MDL is to save time and money by consolidating the discovery proceedings and pretrial motions.
  6. Compensation in these types of lawsuits cover financial damages such as medical bills, lost wages and loss of future earnings in the event of serious injuries. Compensation may also be sought for physical and emotional damages. In the event of death, compensation may be recovered for a loss of social and economic support as well as added financial costs such as funeral and burial costs.
  7. Government ends its investigation and finds GM guilty of knowingly stalling the recall for more than a decade: Once the government caught wind of allegations that GM withheld information about the recall from the public, it presented a three-year consent order to the automaker to have regular discussions with government regulators about recalls and other safety issues. GM consented. The order just ran up but GM announced that it will propose monthly meetings with NHTSA to discuss vehicle safety.
  8. GM knew of the problem in 2001: According to a timeline prepared by CNN, GM engineers reported problems with Ion ignition switches back in 2001. The issue that was reported was supposedly fixed, but similar problems propped up again in 2003, 2004 and 2005. All issues involved vehicles losing power due to problems with the ignitions. The biggest issue is that when keys are bumped, the ignition switches out of the “run” position, killing power. In 2005, however, GM decides not to go through with a suggest repair because it was “too costly,” among other things.
  9. GM did work quickly to repair affected vehicles: Once the recall was issued, GM worked fast to contact all affected owners and to have the parts replaced. The fire was probably sparked by the scrutiny the company felt after being put on public blast for withholding information about the potential defect for more than ten years.
  10. Owners of recalled vehicles should contact GM as soon as possible. Vehicle owners with more questions can contact the GM Customer Engagement Center at 1-800-222-1012. To contact customer service based on a specific model, the following numbers are available:
    1. Chevrolet: 1-800-222-1020 (TTY 1-800-833-2438)
    2. Pontiac: 1-800-762-2737 (TTY 1-800-833-7668)
    3. Saturn: 1-800-553-6000 (TTY 1-800-833-6000)

Timeline in the GM Ignition Switch Recall

  • February 2002: GM switch engineer approves a new ignition switch for small cars, but the supplier noted that it does not meet the company’s specifications. The switch was first used in the Saturn Ion in 2002.
  • July 2005: A 16 year old girl dies in a frontal crash in her 2005 Chevy Cobalt. This was the first death that was related to the switch. A contractor that was hired by NHTSA determined that the ignition had moved from the run position into the accessory position. This cut the power to the brakes, steering and airbags.
  • April 2006: GM signs off on the switch redesign, but fails to change the part number. This made the change harder to track. The new switch was put into cars beginning in 2007.
  • November 2007: The NHTSA declined to open an investigation into the reason airbags did not deploy in some GM car crashes. It stated that the rate of occurrence was not higher than other vehicles not made by GM. But it was found out later that GM hid information that investigators needed.
  • April 2013: GM showed evidence in a wrongful death cases that the switch design was changed.
  • February 2013: GM recalls 1.6 million cars to fix faulty ignition switches. The recall became 2.6 million cars later.
  • May 2014: The government fines GM $35 million for not disclosing switch problems faster.
  • June 2014: GM releases 300-page investigation into the recalls by a former federal prosecutor. GM states that 15 employees were fired and five others were disciplined. GM sets up a compensation fund for victims.
  • August 2015: GM states that the ignition switches caused 124 deaths and 275 injuries. Families of those who died get at least $1 million each.

Automakers have a responsibility to protect the safety of consumers. If they are made aware that a product could possibly be defective, they have a legal and moral obligation to fix it. By withholding information about the defective ignition switch and failing to fix it right away, GM put millions of people in danger. The company is now paying for its decision to put its personal interests before the safety of the American public, but unfortunately things like this happen more than we would like to admit, often without the public ever even knowing.

If you or someone you love is ever affected by a recalled product, you should consult an attorney as soon as possible to find out if you can seek compensation for your losses. Defective product lawyers are available to help any person that is wronged by a company’s decision to put people in danger as a result of protecting its own bottom line.

Michael Bennett

About Michael Bennett

Michael Bennett is Editor-in-Chief of Consumer Protect.com. Since 1999, he's worked across a multitude of areas of consumer protection including defective products, environmental issues, identity theft, predatory lending and more. If you find his articles helpful please share them with your readers.