General Motors Vehicle ‘Park-It’ Order Sought in Class Action Lawsuit

A Texas judge is considering whether to order General Motors (GM) to “ground” all cars affected by recent ignition switch recalls, which may require the auto maker to tell owners of affected U.S. vehicles to park their cars and not operate them until repairs can be made.

A class action lawsuit filed against GM on behalf of vehicle owners seeks the court action, arguing that such an order is the only way to protect consumers from the faulty ignition switches, which may cause vehicles to suddenly turn off and prevent airbags from deploying in an auto accident.

GM has acknowledged that as many as 13 deaths may have been caused by the defective ignition switches in certain vehicles, but some reports suggest that there have been hundreds of deaths reported in recent years involving airbags that failed to deploy in the recalled vehicles.

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GM Ignition Recall Lawsuits

In 2014, GM Recalled 2.6M Vehicles Due to Risk of Airbag Failure from Defective Ignition Switches.

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Nearly 2.6 million GM vehicles worldwide have been recalled in recent weeks, after the auto maker indicated that heavy key chains or a sudden jolt to the ignition switch, such as what may occur in an accident, may cause the ignitions to turn off, deactivating the airbags.

Although GM has maintained that cars with faulty ignition switches can still be safely driven if the key is removed from any keychain or other weight, reports suggest the vehicles may still pose a potential risk. At least one report involving a 2007 Chevrolet Cobalt has surfaced indicating that the vehicle lost power while driving, even though only a single key was used.

U.S. District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos is considering the request to issue a “park-it” order, following a hearing late last week in Corpus Christi, Texas. Judge Ramos has ordered GM to provide additional information and arguments before April 9, explaining why the Court should not issue the unprecedented order, which would be the first of its kind in automotive recall history. However, plaintiffs indicate that the action is within the power of the court, and may save lives until all repairs are complete later this year.

U.S. Senator Backs GM “Park It” Order

During a congressional hearing last week, U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn) urged GM to ground the recalled vehicles throughout the U.S.

GM CEO Mary Barra testified last week before the U.S. Senate and Congress, indicating that tests and analysis done by the auto maker have confirmed that the defective cars may be safely driven so long as they are operated with only the ignition key, removing the added weight of additional keys or key chains.

Sen. Blumenthal highlighted an experience had by Laura Valle last month, who continued to operate her vehicle with only the ignition key after receiving a GM recall letter in March 2014. While driving with a friend, Valle’s vehicle lost power, despite the reduced load on the ignition. Fortunately, Valle was able to safely pull to the side of the road and stop, but the situation highlights the potential risk associated with continuing to operate the cars.

“These vehicles create risks that are unacceptable before they are repaired,” said Blumenthal. “[T]he advice GM should give to people is, bring these cars to be repaired immediately. Stop driving them.”

During the hearing last week, U.S. lawmakers accused GM of having a “culture of cover-up,” after information came to light that the Detroit auto maker knew about the mechanical problems for more than a decade, but failed to take earlier actions to recall the vehicles or make necessary repairs.

GM has indicated that replacement parts are on the way and repairs will likely begin next week. However, other statements suggest that it may take until at least October 2014 to complete all repairs, which could mean that defective cars may continue to be on the road for months, posing a life-threatening risk for occupants and other drivers on the roads.

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