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Class action filed against GM over key system

By Kyla Asbury | Mar 25, 2014

SAN FRANCISCO (Legal Newsline) - A class action lawsuit has been brought against General Motors after consumers from nine states claim its key system was defective.

The lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California on Monday by owners and lease-holders of GM cars who allege their key systems were prone to sudden shut-down. They also claim GM concealed for a decade.

GM is currently facing investigations by Congress and federal regulators over its alleged decade-long failure to correct faulty ignition switches on several of its major car brands.

The plaintiffs in the case, Galdina Maciel, Daniel Cortex, Cindy Wade, Zachary DeWitt, Roberta Cheraso, Demetrius Smith, Jenee Byrd, Asuhan Leyva, Jim Gresik, Barbara Ellis Steele, Maria Raygoza, Barbara Gray and Michele Bennett, purchased or leased vehicles manufactured by GM, including the 2005-2010 Chevrolet Cobalt, 2006-2007 Chevrolet HHR, 2006-2007 Pontiac Solstice, 2005-2007 Pontiac G5, 2003-2007 Saturn Ion and 2007 Saturn Sky vehicles.

Each of the defective vehicles contains a "uniformly designed ignition switch, which is substantially similar for all of the defective vehicles," according to the suit.

The 13 plaintiffs who bought and leased GM's cars in a number of states - including California, Arkansas, Georgia, Illinois, Louisiana, Missouri, Texas and Vermont - claim the key system on the vehicles is prone to fail during ordinary and foreseeable driving situations.

"GM had actual knowledge that, because of the way in which the key system was designed and integrated in the defective vehicles, the ignition switch can suddenly fail during normal operation, cutting off engine power and certain electrical systems in the cars, which, in turn, disables key vehicle components, safety features...or other vehicle functions, leaving occupants vulnerable to crashes, serious injuries and death," the complaint states.

The plaintiffs claim GM fraudulently concealed material facts regarding the scope and extent of problems with its key system, which have been linked to at least 31 crashes and 13 fatalities nationally.

The suit contends that GM knew its key system posed an "increase[ed] risk of injury or fatality" as far back as 2001 but failed to take proper steps to correct the defects, which could cause certain Chevrolet, Pontiac and Saturn cars to shut down without warning while being driven.

In addition to rendering the cars' power steering and brakes inoperable, the ignition failures caused the safety airbags to stop functioning, putting drivers at extreme risk in a collision, the suit says.

GM has publicly admitted that its keys could inadvertently slip out of the "run" position with the car's engine on, according to a press release by Grant & Eisenhofer.

The company is in the midst of a recall involving some 1.6 million vehicles.

The plaintiffs claim GM was fully aware that the problems extended beyond just the ignition switch mechanism that has been the focus of the recall.

"It is tremendously disappointing that General Motors, which was bailed out by U.S. consumers during the financial crisis, has been carrying on the most egregious and far-reaching cover-up in automotive history because it didn't want to assume the costs of fixing cars it knew to be dangerously defective," said Adam Levitt, one of the lawyers representing the plaintiffs group, in a press release.

The plaintiffs are asking the court to compel the company to undertake a full repair and overhaul of the affected key systems so that all defective vehicles can have their value restored.

The plaintiffs are seeking for the court to certify the action as a class action; enjoin GM from continuing its unfair business practices; and compensatory and punitive damages.

Among the lawyers participating in the action are Edward D. "Chip" Robertson, Jr., who served as Chief Justice of the Missouri Supreme Court, along with Sharon L. Potter, a former U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of West Virginia.

Other attorneys participating in the action are Roland Tellis, Mark Pifko and Isaac Miller of Baron and Budd; John E. Tangren of Grant & Eisenhofer; Lance Cooper of the Cooper Firm; Scott B. Cooper of the Cooper Law Firm; Cale H. Conley, Ranse M. Partin and Andrew T. Tennille III of Conley Griggs Partin; James R. Bartimus of Bartimus, Frickleton, Robertson & Goza; Mark DiCello and Robert F. DiCello of the DiCello Law Firm; Joseph J. Siprut of Siprut PC; Niall A. Paul and Nathan B. Atkinson of Spilman Thomas Battle; and Guy R. Bucci, Timothy C. Bailey and Lee Javins of Bucci Bailey & Javins.

The case has been assigned to District Judge Jeffrey S. White.

U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California case number: 3:14-cv-01339

From Legal Newsline: Kyla Asbury can be reached at

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