General Motors’ ignition switch recall has triggered a new lawsuit in which the plaintiffs are claiming that 29 people have died and 627 were injured in accidents in which the defective part was a factor.
The lawsuit, Abney vs. General Motors, was filed in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, which is emerging as the venue for cases against GM. The quasi-official number of deaths blamed on the defective ignition switch now stands at 13, according to figures from GM and the National Transportation Highway Safety Administration.
The suit also attacks GM’s efforts to settle out of court with injured motorists through a procedure established by New York attorney Kenneth Feinberg. It covers claims that would not be eligible for the program, according to Robert Hilliard, the lawyer who filed the suit. The ineligible claims, according to Hillard, include accidents involving cars not among the 2.6 million vehicles initially recalled for switch issues and accidents in which the car’s airbags deployed.
A key element of the ignition-switch controversy is that GM engineers failed to comprehend fully that if the ignition switch moved out of the run position while the car was it motion air bags could not deploy.
Feinberg has said that airbag non-deployment is a key sign that the ignition switch may not have been properly working.
Last week, GM disclosed it was setting aside $400 million to cover the cost of the settlements proposed under Feinberg’s procedures.
GM officials declined to comment on the specific lawsuit by GM chief executive officer Mary Barra has said she wants to make sure that injured are treated fairly.
The new lawsuit, however, also states many of the plaintiffs would receive less than “fair value” for their claims.
The suit was also filed just as GM was mounting a fresh effort to put the controversy behind it.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s named the Chevrolet Volt as a 2014 Top Safety Pick Plus award. In another bit of good news for GM, the also received an acceptable overall score in IIHS’ challenging small overlap front crash test putting it ahead of its competitors, both in the electric and small car segments.
(Chevy Volt gets high rating for crashworthiness. For more, Click Here.)
“The Volt’s crashworthiness performance puts it in the top tier for small car safety,” said Joe Nolan, IIHS senior vice president for vehicle research. “GM should be commended for the Volt’s performance in the small overlap front test because this car was designed before that challenging test was introduced.”
The Volt earned a “good” rating – the highest the IIHS awards in its tests – in four of the six categories monitored during the small overlap front test. In the Structure category and the Restraints & Kinematics category, the Volt earned an “acceptable” rating. Altogether, the scores gave the Volt an overall acceptable rating in the test.
(Click Here for details on Cadillac’s plans to ride new product to success.)
“These outstanding results demonstrate our commitment to the highest levels of safety performance in our vehicles,” said Jeff Boyer, vice president of GM Global Vehicle Safety. ”Achieving the IIHS Top Safety Pick Plus is a key endorsement which is valued by our customers.”
Boyer, who Barra picked to head up GM’s efforts to upgrade its safety record and deal with recalls, noted GM conducted a full-scale re-examination of how the company handles safety evaluations and recall decisions. “We’re already seeing improvement from the changes we’ve made,” Boyer said in post placed on GM media website.
(To see Dan Akerson’s claims he was surprised by depth of problems at GM, Click Here.)
GM has restructured the recall decision-making process to raise it to the highest levels of the company. Recall decisions are being made swiftly with a sense of urgency – reducing our previous timelines by weeks in many cases, Boyer said.
GM is mining data from any source, including small numbers of customer complaints to identify a potential issue, he said.
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