We have been informed that federal authorities have found criminal wrongdoing in their investigation of General Motors Co. over the automaker’s faulty ignition switches that have caused so much misery and grief. I believe the reports are correct and that GM will pay a record penalty. A settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice, which has been conducting a yearlong probe into the automaker’s handling of the defect, could be announced as early as this summer. According to reports, the fine may exceed the previous record, which was the $1.2 billion penalty assessed to Toyota.
The New York Times was the first media source to report on this development and based on what our lawyers have learned, I am confident that the Times’ report is accurate. Our firm was heavily involved in the Toyota litigation and currently are working on the GM litigation switch cases. We believe that GM’s conduct is certainly as bad – if not worse – than that of Toyota.
The ignition switch defect has caused over 100 deaths and crash-related injuries for an additional 184 people. We all know that the recall has ballooned to include millions of vehicles. It should be noted that there are other GM vehicles – not currently in the recalls – that should be included.
We have repeatedly said that GM intentionally covered up a known safety defect for over a decade. The automaker lied to NHTSA, Congress and the American people and that’s inexcusable. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has said it will extend its “unprecedented” oversight of the automaker’s handling of potential vehicle safety issues for an additional year. NHTSA began conducting monthly meetings with GM under the terms of a May 2014 consent order that followed a record $35 million civil penalty to punish the automaker for its “long-delayed” recall of the Cobalt, as well as other makes and models affected by the ignition switch defect that prevented the cars’ air bags from deploying.
A number of lawsuits filed against GM in connection with the defect have been consolidated into multidistrict litigation in New York federal court. The plaintiffs in the MDL plan to appeal a decision by a U.S. bankruptcy judge that currently shields post-bankruptcy “New GM” from most ignition defect claims. Our firm and Lance Cooper’s Georgia firm have been heavily involved in the ignition switch litigation and have limited our efforts to the extent possible to cases that remain outside the MDL.
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