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The General Motors recall affects some vehicles released as long ago as 1997. Victims or families of victims whose airbags did not deploy during an accident caused by one of the recalled vehicles may be eligible for compensatory damages.
Meltons v. General Motors LLC
Possibly the first lawsuit to tie a faulty ignition switch to a fatal accident is that of Kenneth and Mary Melton against GM. After a crash that killed their 29-year-old daughter Brooke Melton in 2010, the Meltons sued GM in 2011, claiming that the company had been negligent and breached implied warranty. The proceedings of the case first brought to light the factknowledge that GM had known about ignition switch problems for more than ten years. The Meltons eventually settled their lawsuit for $5 million. 1
In 2014, documents supplied to Congress by Delphi Automotive — the manufacturer of the malfunctioning switches — showed that the ignition switches had been redesigned in 2006, contrary to testimony by a GM engineer during the Meltons’ suit. According to a court order, the Meltons sought to reopen the case, and in July 2014 a federal judge remanded the case back to the original Georgia State court for further proceedings. 2
Multidistrict Litigation in General Motors Lawsuits
Since the Melton case, other victims and relatives have filed suits against GM, claiming death or significant injury due to airbags not deploying in vehicles with ignition switches that worked incorrectly. In June 2014, the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation transferred fifteen cases to the Southern District of New York under MDL 2543 and assigned them to Judge Jesse M. Furman, who previously heard appeals having to do with General Motors’ bankruptcy case. The order noted at least forty other potential tag-along lawsuits. 3
Additional cases have since been filed and attached to the MDL, bringing the total number of ignition switch recall-related lawsuits to more than 100 as of July 2014. 4
Possible General Motors Bankruptcy Immunity
One of the issues surrounding the lawsuits is related to GM’s liability after having declared bankruptcy in 2009. As part of the bankruptcy, the company was reorganized into two entities, with pre-bankruptcy claims being handled by General Motors Corporation and newer claims being handled by General Motors LLC. The older Corporation has fewer assets than the newer limited-liability company. 5
GM has argued that it is shielded from claims related to products developed and sold before its restructuring, and GM Chief Counsel Michael Millikin testified before a senate subcommittee that the company has no plans to waive its supposed immunity. 6 However, U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Robert Gerber has stated that if troubles related to the ignition switches were intentionally hidden during the bankruptcy proceedings, such an action may constitute fraud. 7
The company has announced that it will accept applications for compensation between Aug. 1 and Dec. 31, 2014. Award amounts purportedly have no limit, either for individuals or for GM as a whole.
General Motors Compensation Fund
GM has established a compensation fund from which it expects to make settlement payments to victims and families of crashes related to some of its vehicles that had defective ignition switches. According to at least one analyst, the company could pay out $3 billion, while Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) has suggested the figure has thewith potential to grow as big as $8 billion. 8
The company has announced that it will accept applications for compensation between Aug. 1 and Dec. 31, 2014. Award amounts purportedly have no limit, either for individuals or for GM as a whole. However, victims and families who receive payments from the fund must agree not to sue the company in return. 9
Victims who have been injured, and families of victims who have been killed, because an airbag failed to deploy in a vehicle with a faulty ignition switch should consider their options carefully before settling directly with the company. Fill at the form on this page to contact us for a free case review.
Recalled General Motors Vehicle Models
The following list provides an overview of GM vehicles that have been recalled through the first half of 2014.
- Buick Lacrosse (2005-2009)
- Buick Lucerne (2006–2011)
- Buick Regal LS and GS (2004–2005)
- Cadillac CTS (2003-2013)
- Cadillac Deville (2000–2005)
- Cadillac DTS (2004–2011)
- Cadillac SRX (2004-2006)
- Chevrolet Camaro (2010–2014)
- Chevrolet Cobalt (2005–2010)
- Chevrolet HHR (2006-2011)
- Chevrolet Impala (2000-2014)
- Chevrolet Malibu (1997-2005)
- Chevrolet Monte Carlo (2000–2008)
- Oldsmobile Alero (1999-2004)
- Oldsmobile Intrigue (1998-2002)
- Pontiac Grand Am (1999-2005)
- Pontiac Grand Prix (2004-2008)
- Pontiac G5 (2007-2010)
- Pontiac Solstice (2006-2010)
- Saturn Ion (2003-2007)
- Saturn Sky (2007-2010)
Deaths and Injuries Related to Malfunctioning Airbags
Because at least four deaths, and potentially as many as 30 injuries, have been tied to malfunctioning airbags, Takata has become the subject of litigation. Those who are suing the company claim that Takata, along with partnering automakers like Toyota and Honda who are also named as defendants, knew about the defects in their airbags for some time and concealed that knowledge from consumers. 10 A Reuters story reported that a Takata factory in Mexico recorded defects in its airbags as far back as 2002, with a number of other quality-control problems identified since then. 11
Victims who have been injured and families of victims who have been killed because of a defective Takata airbag should consider their options carefully before settling directly with the company. Fill out the form on this page for a free case review.
- Krisher, Tom. Federal Judge Sends Key Wrongful Death Lawsuit Against GM Back to Georgia Court. (July 19, 2014). Associated Press. Accessed July 21, 2014.
- Thrash, Thomas W., Jr. Opinion and Order Granting 13 Motion to Remand to State Court of Cobb County. (July 18, 2014). Accessed July 21, 2014.
- United States Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation. In Re: General Motors LLC Ignition Switch Litigation. (June 9, 2014). Accessed July 21, 2014.
- Yang, Yang. GM Compensation Fund: New Payment Details Emerge. (June 30, 2014). Bloomberg News. Accessed July 21, 2014.
- Sandler, Linda. GM Bankruptcy Judge to Review Recall Legal-Dispute Rules. (July 2, 2014). Bloomberg News. Accessed July 21, 2014.
- Jones, Ashby. GM Says It Has a Shield From Some Liability. (June 15, 2014). Accessed July 21, 2014.
- GM judge says concealing switch fault would have been fraud. (July 2, 2014). Automotive News. Accessed July 21, 2014.
- Vlasic, Bill. At Hearing on G.M. Recall, Mary Barra Gives Little Ground. (July 17, 2014). NYTimes.com. Accessed July 21, 2014.
- Healey, James R. Feinberg Announces how GM switch victims will be paid. (June 30, 2014). Accessed July 21, 2014.
- “Takata sued in US over potentially dangerous airbags.” (Oct. 28, 2014) BBC News. Accessed Oct. 29, 2014.
- Bernstein, Joanna Zuckerman, Ben Klayman, and Yoko Kubota. “Exclusive: Takata engineers struggled to maintain air bag quality, documents reveal.” (Oct. 17, 2014) Reuters. Accessed Oct. 29, 2014.