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A number of states are now joining the investigations into General Motors’ (GM) decade-long delay in recalling millions of cars that have defective ignition switches, which may have contributed to dozens of accidents and deaths nationwide.
Attorneys general in Arkansas, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky and Louisiana have all announced that they are launching probes into the auto manufacturer’s actions leading up to February’s GM ignition switch recall.
Further, there is reportedly a federal prosecutor in New York also investigating the company, according to Bloomberg News.
There has been no announcement as to what charges may be leveled against GM over the recall. However, the company has already been fined $35 million by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) over delays in addressing the safety problem. GM has acknowledged that it was aware of the problems for years, but failed to recall the vehicles or take steps to address the problems.
The defective ignition switches may have been used in various Chevrolet Cobalts, Chevrolet HHRs, Pontiac G5, Pontiac Solstice, Pontiac Pursuit, Saturn Ion and Saturn Sky vehicles sold between 2005 and 2010. If heavy key chains are used, or if the ignition is jolted, such as may occur in a crash, the vehicle may suddenly shut down. This could cause drivers to lose control or prevent the airbags from deploying in a crash, increasing the risk of injury or death.
All that has currently been released about the state attorneys general investigations is that they are a coordinated multistate effort. It is likely that the number of states involved will grow.
While the auto maker has indicated that at least 13 deaths may have occurred in connection with the problem. NHTSA officials, company officials and consumer watchdog groups say that number is expected to rise as more information and analysis becomes available.
In addition to the legal probes, the company also faces a growing number of individual GM ignition switch lawsuits and class action lawsuits as well.
Some of the lawsuits come from victims of accidents, or their survivors, who say their accidents and injuries were caused by the defective ignition switches. Others come from shareholders and vehicle owners who say the company falsely represented the safety of its vehicles and that its actions lowered the values of the cars and the company’s stock, causing economic losses.
The economic lawsuits filed in federal courts nationwide were consolidated on Monday as part of a MDL, or multidistrict litigation, in the Southern District of New York for pretrial proceedings. It does not include the personal injury or wrongful death claims.
The company has vowed to compensate accident victims who suffered injuries or lost loved ones due to the defective ignition switches, but says it will fight the economic damages claims.
A report released last week shed insight on just how GM allowed the cars to stay on the road for so long without warning consumers that they were dangerous. The independent review found a “pattern of incompetence” that had infested General Motors, leading to a lack of internal communication and engineers who did not understand the design philosophy governing how the company’s cars worked.
The findings of the report are likely to figure prominently in the investigations and the lawsuits.