General Motors recently announced that it would pay $575 million to resolve more than half of the death and personal injury claims and the related shareholder lawsuits. This settlement will resolve nearly 1,400 lawsuits. Our team of defective auto part lawyers details this announcement below.
The personal injury and wrongful death lawsuits are consolidated in a multi-district litigation (MDL) in New York federal court. In addition to this $575 million settlement, GM just agreed to pay another $900 million in criminal fines to the Department of Justice (DOJ). The DOJ opened a criminal investigation into GM after the massive recall last year. As a result of the investigation, GM will plead guilty to failing to disclose the ignition switch defects to regulators in a timely manner and to misleading consumers about vehicle safety.
We first reported on the GM ignition switch recall in February 2014, at which time more than a dozen deaths had been confirmed from the defect. The number of deaths officially linked to the ignition defects has reached 120, though there are likely many more. Approximately 184 serious injuries have been connected to the defect.
The economic loss lawsuits, also consolidated in an MDL, were filed by GM shareholders in Michigan federal court.
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Vehicles affected by the faulty ignition switches can suddenly lose power while in operation. The ignition switches unintentionally turn from the on position to the off position when on bumpy roads or from heavy key chains. GM executives knew of this defect as early as 2004. During congressional hearings on the recall, the same executives struggled to explain why it took more than a decade for them to act on the problem, which has claimed hundreds of lives.
The current $575 million settlement will resolve more than 1,380 death and injury lawsuits. Those who accept the settlement will recover damages based on their eligibility, which is determined by an independent third party. Hundreds of injury and death suits still remain in the MDL, as they are subject to different processing. These remaining claims involve accidents that occurred before GM declared bankruptcy in 2009.
Keyless Ignition Carbon Monoxide Lawsuit Filed
In related legal news, ten of the worlds largest automakers were recently sued over carbon monoxide poisoning from keyless ignition systems. Plaintiffs argue that these systems do not have an automatic shutoff, causing the vehicle to run indefinitely if accidentally left on. In an enclosed area, such as a garage, this can lead to very serious illness and death.
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Plaintiffs want the ten automakers to redesign their keyless ignitions to include automatic shutoffs in the fob key. The plaintiffs are seeking class action status. Plaintiffs allege more than five million vehicles are equipped with keyless ignitions without auto-shut off, and that at least 13 people have died from related unintentional carbon monoxide poisoning. Consumers who died allegedly believed their car engines had shut off in their garages and took their electronic key fobs with them inside, later dying of carbon monoxide poisoning. Carbon monoxide is an odorless, colorless gas that claims more approximately 430 lives every year in the U.S.
The lawsuit claims automakers have long known that keyless ignitions could cause serious health risks, yet failed to warn consumers about the risks. Plaintiffs further state that installing an auto-shutoff features would be incredibly inexpensive, and that both GM and Ford even patented a shut-off feature for these vehicles.
In other words, the worlds largest automakers had real, irrefutable knowledge that keyless ignitions could be accidentally left on in consumers garages, posing a risk of carbon monoxide poisoning. The companies also knew fixing this problem was attainable and inexpensive, but failed to take action and continued marketing these vehicles as safe.
If you or someone you love was seriously injured or killed by a defective auto part, contact our firm immediately. You have the right to compensation for your losses. Our defective parts lawyers have 30 years of experience fighting on behalf of victims, and provide free consultations to concerned parties nationwide.