Stay imposed on class action against GM over key system

By Kyla Asbury | Apr 22, 2014

SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. (Legal Newsline) - An order granting General Motors' motion for stay has been filed in the lawsuit against GM over its allegedly defective key system.

SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. (Legal Newsline) - An order granting General Motors' motion for stay has been filed in the lawsuit against GM over its allegedly defective key system.

GM moved to stay proceedings pending rulings by the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation and Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York. District Judge Jeffrey S. White granted GM's motion on Tuesday.

"This case should be stayed pending the outcome of the MDL petitions and the bankruptcy court motion, either of which would substantially limit or eliminate the need for further proceedings here," the April 11 motion states. "A stay will prevent needless waste of time and resources of the parties and the court."

Moreover, the motion states, it will protect GM from being required to litigate identical issues in multiple jurisdictions, with the danger of inconsistent rulings.

"If plaintiffs' case is not transferred and consolidated in another federal district, or if the Maciel plaintiffs are not enjoined (in whole or in part) by the bankruptcy court, they will not have suffered any prejudice as a result of the temporary stay requested here," according to the motion.

The motion also mentions GM in two separate ways, "New GM" and "Old GM." "New GM" refers to General Motors LLC and "Old GM" refers to General Motors Corporation.

The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California on March 24 after owners and leaseholders of GM cars claimed their cars have or had allegedly faulty key systems. The cars were prone to sudden shut-down, which GM concealed for a decade, the plaintiffs say.

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

"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.

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.

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.

They are being represented by Edward D. "Chip" Robertson, Jr., who served as Chief Justice of the Missouri Supreme Court; Sharon L. Potter, a former U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of West Virginia; Roland Tellis, Mark Pifko and Isaac Miller of Baron and Budd; Adam J. Levitt and 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.

U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California case number: 4:14-cv-01339

From Legal Newsline: Kyla Asbury can be reached at

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