Attorneys representing Charles and Grace Silvas, the owners of a
recalled 2006 Chevrolet Cobalt, had sought an emergency order
directing GM to issue "park it now" notices for the 2.6 million
vehicles that have been recalled since February over the switches.
The notices would have told owners that the cars were too dangerous
to remain on the road.
GM opposed the motion, arguing that the vehicles were safe to drive
as long as nothing extra was attached to the key while it was in the
U.S. District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos in Corpus Christi, Texas,
denied the request in a ruling on Thursday, saying that she would
defer to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, a
federal agency that oversees auto safety.
"The court is of the opinion that NHTSA is far better equipped than
this court to address the broad and complex issues of automotive
safety and the regulation of automotive companies in connection with
the nationwide recall," Ramos wrote.
A spokesman for GM, Greg Martin, said the company respected the
A lawyer for the plaintiffs, Robert Hilliard of Hilliard Munoz
Gonzales, called it a "sad day for tomorrow's victim."
"Unfortunately at GM, when profits come up against morality, profits
seldom lose," he said in a statement.
The ruling averts a potentially costly ramp-up in GM's recall
efforts. The company has started to ship replacement switches to
dealerships, but it has not instructed customers to stop driving the
cars. Its website advises customers that it is "very important" to
remove additional weight, like fobs, from the key ring, and to make
sure the vehicle is in park before exiting.
GM's website also advises consumers about the risk that switches
could also malfunction if the vehicle "experiences rough road
conditions or other jarring or impact related events."
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Some have questioned whether the recall does enough to protect
customers from the ignition switch risks. U.S. Senator Richard
Blumenthal last month echoed the request for a "park it now" notice,
saying that customers should "verify, and do not trust, these
recalled cars," according to a March 28 statement.
Last week, GM announced it was taking a higher-than-expected charge
of $1.3 billion in the first quarter, primarily to cover the cost of
recall-related repairs and courtesy transportation, compared with a
previously announced $750 million charge.
At least 13 deaths in Saturn Ions, Chevrolet Cobalts and other
models have been linked to the faulty ignition switches, which are
prone to being bumped or jostled into accessory mode while cars are
still moving. That can shut off engines and disable power steering,
power brakes and airbags.
The company is facing numerous lawsuits over the vehicles, on behalf
of individuals injured or killed in crashes or customers who say
their cars lost value as a result of the recall.
Plaintiffs in those cases have accused GM of knowing about the
defect for at least a decade, but failing to recall cars until this
year. GM has apologized and said it is moving as quickly as it can
to replace the switches.
The case is Silvas v. General Motors, U.S. District Court for the
Southern District of Texas, No. 14-89.
(Reporting by Jessica Dye in New York; editing by Matthew Lewis,
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