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First family joins class action case against car giant

A couple in Ontario is seeking the help of other victims of car accidents that occurred as a result of a faulty part in General Motors vehicles with a $500 million class-action lawsuit. Their son died in 2012, and they are the first to join the lawsuit over the defective part. The lawyer for the couple explained that they will need to obtain further paperwork, such as reports from the government, police reports and accident reconstruction reports.

A letter about the recall of the 2006 Saturn Ion was delivered to the now-deceased man months after the car accident in which his airbag did not deploy. The specific issue was a faulty ignition switch that disengaged the airbags, steering and brakes. Further assessment showed that repairs would have cost the giant manufacturer just 57 cents per part. The problems eventually culminated in a recall of 2.6 million vehicles earlier this year.

A congressional committee in the U.S. is investigating the matter further. The possibility of criminal charges related to the defects has also come up. One of the considerations relates to time frames and when the company knew about the problem. Federal overseers expressed concerns in 2007 that GM knew about the issues, but top management at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration failed to pursue an investigation.

A parts supplier conducted further tests on the faulty part and determined it was not up to manufacturer specifications. The internal paper trail amongst GM, the parts supplier and a U.S. government agency reported various examples of defects and claimed that correcting the problem was too costly, although it is believed to have caused at least 13 deaths. Others who were affected by the faulty ignition switch, either with their own injuries or the death of a loved one, might also consider joining the class-action lawsuit.

Source: Toronto Sun, ‘GM documents show early knowledge of switch defect,” Eric Beech, Paul Lienert and Richard Cowan, April 17, 2014