The suit claims that a wider set of GM vehicles than the company has
recalled have faulty ignition switches. Chevrolet Cobalt cars made
as late as 2010 had poor placement of the ignition switch that made
it easier for drivers to inadvertently bump keys into the
"accessory" position which, the suit filed by a coalition of U.S.
law firms claims, renders airbags useless in a crash.
Most of the vehicles GM has recalled are Cobalt cars from model
years 2005 to 2007 or Saturn Ion cars from model years 2003 to 2007.
A separate wrongful-death lawsuit, filed in Alabama by a former
employee of Delphi Automotive, maker of ignition switches supplied
to GM, claims the automaker concealed information about the ignition
switch responsible for a crash that killed his daughter.
That lawsuit was brought by Steve Smith in Alabama state court on
Monday and names GM as a defendant, as well as Delphi which supplied
the ignition switch to GM.
Both lawsuits were filed on Monday.
GM in February recalled 1.6 million vehicles and issued related
service bulletins to dealers with suggested remedies in 2005. GM has
linked the ignition switch problems to 12 deaths. The company has
apologized for how it handled the recall.
The suit seeking nationwide class action status involves 13 named
plaintiffs from nine states and the number of plaintiffs is expected
to grow, according to a statement by one of law firms involved,
Grant & Eisenhofer.
The Grant & Eisenhofer statement lists 10 law firms representing the
Both the California-filed and the Alabama-filed lawsuits claim that
GM knew of problems with ignition switches on some of its vehicles
as early as 2001 but failed to take the proper steps to fix the
A spokeswoman for Delphi did not immediately return a request for
GM's communications office on Tuesday declined to comment on either
"We are recalling all of the vehicles that were manufactured with
the specific ignition switch involved with this condition," said a
GM spokesman in an emailed statement.
But the lawsuit filed in San Francisco covers owners of Cobalt cars
made from 2005 to 2010, beyond the scope of 2005 to 2007 model years
covered in the GM recall.
From 2008 to 2010, GM sold nearly 400,000 Chevrolet Cobalt cars in
the United States. Model years start ahead of calendar years. GM
sold more than 200,000 Cobalt cars in calendar year 2007, according
to auto industry research firm Autodata.
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The lawsuit does not include Saturn Ions beyond the scope of the
2003 to 2007 model years recalled by GM.
GM's "own engineering documents reflect that the defects transcend
just the ignition switch and also include the placement of the
ignition switch" on the steering column, according to the
The wider lawsuit claims that GM engineers suggested one remedy
that was rejected by the company that would have called for a
protective covering, or shroud, around the ignition switch that
would have kept a driver from forcing the key into the "accessory"
DELPHI WORKER ALABAMA LAWSUIT
Smith, the former Delphi employee, claimed that his daughter, Aubrey
Wallace Williams, was driving a 2006 Chevrolet Cobalt on a highway
in Alabama when the ignition switch failed, causing the engine to
shut off and turning off power in the vehicle. The car became
uncontrollable and crossed into a different lane where it struck an
18-wheeler truck, the complaint said. Williams was killed instantly,
Smith retired about three years ago. He did not design, work on or
have any other involvement with the ignition switch, according to
his lawyer, Jere Beasley of the firm Beasley Allen.
GM has faced a growing number of lawsuits since the recall was
announced. Numerous proposed class actions have been filed by
customers who say their vehicles lost value or were unusable as a
result of the defect.
GM has also been hit with at least one wrongful death lawsuit on
behalf of three teen-age girls who were injured or killed in a 2006
accident involving a recalled 2005 Chevy Cobalt.
(Additional reporting by Bernie Woodall in Detroit;
editing by Noeleen Walder, Matthew Lewis and Cynthia Osterman)
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