A Texas lawyer has filed a lawsuit against GM on behalf of 658 people who have been either injured, or killed in crashes allegedly caused by faulty ignition switches.
The lawsuit names 29 people who were killed in crashes and 629 who were hurt, attorney Robert Hilliard saying that he will ask the judges for permission to add another 248 cases to the file, including 21 deaths. All the crashes occurred after GM emerged from bankruptcy protection in July 2009. Hilliard stated that “it’s certainly not a legal given that GM will be successful in its attempts to use this ‘get-out-of-jail-free’ bankruptcy card.’”
The lawsuit claims that GM knew about the defective switches since 2001 and seeks $75,000 in damages for each plaintiff. The faulty switches can cut off the engine, which will make the power steering and the brakes stop and also disable the air bags, leading to no protection of people in a crash.
Kenneth Feinberg, compensation expert who handled claims for the BP Gulf Oil Spill, said that GM had not placed a limit on the money amount to be spent in order to compensate victims. He will begin taking claims this Friday, accepting applications through the end of the year. But those who settle with Feinberg must give up their right to sue GE.
In February, GM recalled 2.6 million small cars like the Chevrolet Cobalt for faulty switches, adding to a total of 29 million recalled vehicles. Of those, 17.3 million are to fix defective ignition switches, and only owners of the original 2.6 million small cars are eligible for compensation through Feinberg. GM said that small-car switches have caused at least 54 crashes and 13 deaths.
Jim Cain, spokesman for GM, would not comment on the lawsuit, but stated that the company wants to make amends for the people harmed by ignition switches problems and that this is the reason why they hired Kenneth Feinberg to deal with the compensation program.