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Defective Products: The GM Ignition Switch Recall

The news has contained many stories recently related to the General Motors (GM) ignition switch recall that is getting under way now, years after GM first learned of the problem with certain models it manufactured that posed a serious risk of injury or death.  Defects like the ignition switch defect pose a serious risk of injury to the motoring public.  

As an example, in October 2006, three young women were headed home in a Chevrolet Cobalt in Wisconsin. Driving along a country road, the car ran off the road, struck a utility box, flew over a driveway and hit a patch of trees. All three were killed.  An April 2007 Investigation reportby the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), together with technical bulletins prepared in 2006 by General Motors (GM), tell the following story: 

  • Law enforcement stated the ignition of the wrecked car was in the accessory position. In that position, electrical power to the car, brakes, steering and air bags was off.
  • The GM technical bulletin noted that the car could inadvertently switch into accessory mode due to a heavy key ring, road bump or swipe by the knee of the driver.
  • The investigator reported NHTSA had as of that time (2007) received at least six complaints describing the dangerous random engine shut-down of this model while the car was in motion. 

GM was aware of the potentially deadly defect in the Cobalt and other model cars with the same ignition cylinder as early as 2007, but is only taking action now.  GM filed for bankruptcy in 2009, and using that bankruptcy filing to try and shield itself from liability for claims related to its activities prior to the bankruptcy, including claims related to the ignition switch problems that GM knew about but did not address and did not disclose in the bankruptcy proceeding.  

The death and injury toll created resulting from the ignition switch defect in the Cobalt and other similar cars manufactured by GM is not yet clear. The company says 13 people have died as a result of this defect, while another study says at least 300 people lost their lives.  

If you or a loved one suffered injury or death in an accident involving a defective vehicle in the Bay area, talk to our firm for experienced legal counsel.

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