A class action lawsuit was filed against General Motors in a California federal court last month. It’s alleged that the automaker’s Chevy Cruze, Chevy Malibu and Buick Verano suffer from a steering defect that could make the cars veer dangerously as well as lower their resale value. The lead Plaintiff, Briana Mendoza, claims the steering wheel in her Chevy Cruze locks up and requires turning the wheel with extra force, which could make the car turn sharply when the wheel comes unstuck. Mendoza says GM is aware of the issue affecting the three models from years 2011 through 2014, but has refused to fix the issue in violation of warranty and consumer protection laws. The complaint says:
The steering system is one of the most important components for vehicle control and safe driving. A defective steering system has serious consequences for the handling, maneuvering and stability of the class vehicles while in operation and can contribute to car accidents and potential injury or death.
Mendoza claims the vehicle’s electronic power steering system locks in the straight position after the car has been traveling a long distance on a straight highway. After that happens, the driver has to exert more pressure to the wheel to free it from its stuck position and is in danger of exerting too much force, causing the wheel to turn too far and the car to suddenly veer, the Cruze owner says. GM issued a service bulletin via the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) in November of 2014, offering to repair the bug at no cost to owners. The letter asked drivers who had experienced the issue to bring their cars to dealerships.
However, its alleged that GM used the same defective parts to fix the problem, meaning it would likely manifest again after the car’s limited warranty expired, and that the automaker should have issued a full recall to fix the steering systems in all of the potentially affected vehicles. Mendoza claims GM should have known about the defect via its testing process and customer complaints. GM’s handling of the issue coupled with its probable prior knowledge violated California’s Consumer Legal Remedies Act, Unfair Competition Law and Song-Beverly Consumer Warranty Act.
The automaker allegedly breached its express and implied warranties in violation of the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act. The Plaintiff seeks to represent a California and national class of Cruze, Malibu and Verano owners whose cars dropped in value because of the defect, and aims to recover damages or secure an injunction requiring the automaker to fix the steering flaw, along with punitive damages.
In 2014, GM faced similar allegations in another proposed class action by a Chevy Volt driver alleging his steering wheel locked up at high speeds. The automaker settled the claims in May before the suit reached the class certification phase. The Plaintiff in this case is represented by Michael Louis Kelly, Behram V. Parekh and Heather Baker Dobbs of Kirtland & Packard LLP. Counsel information for GM was not immediately available. The case is in U.S. District Court for the Central District of California.
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