Greene LLP Files Class Action Complaint Against General Motors Regarding Defective Ignition Switches

On May 1, Greene LLP attorneys filed a class action complaint against General Motors and affiliated companies for violations of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO). An ignition switch system installed in certain GM car makes and models is defective, allowing the cars’ engines, air bags, power-assisted steering and anti-lock brakes to shut down unexpectedly while the cars are in motion, and allowing the key to come out of the ignition while the cars continue to run.

The manufacturer of the ignition switches, Delphi Automotive, is also a named defendant in the complaint. GM instructed Delphi to continue manufacturing the defective part even though it did not meet GM’s own specifications – and directed Delphi to conceal a change in the design of the part by not assigning a new part number. The complaint alleges that GM and Delphi deceived Greene LLP client Colin Elliott and others into purchasing dangerous and defective vehicles. Even after the defect in the ignition switches were known, GM sold and leased more vehicles with the defect and Delphi sold more defective switches.

Although GM has only acknowledged 13 deaths caused by the defective ignition switches, independent safety regulators have recorded more than 303. The defective ignition switch was installed in several GM makes and models: Ion and Sky, manufactured by Saturn; Cobalt and HHR, manufactured by Chevrolet; and Solstice and G5, manufactured by Pontiac. Each of these six models was equipped with the defective switch for several years, spanning 2003 to 2011. An estimated 2.6 million vehicles were sold in the United States equipped with the defective ignition switches.

Prior to the sale of these vehicles, the complaint alleges, GM knew of the switch defect through field testing, in-warranty repair data, accident data, and early customer complaints made to GM and the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration. As early as 2005, GM engineers had proposed a redesign of the defective ignition switch (from a “slotted” to “hole” configuration) to prevent inadvertent shifting of the key in the ignition. Despite approving the new design, GM declined to act on it.

Because the cars sold with the defective ignition switch are and were grossly unsafe, all persons who purchased or leased them suffered economic damages by overpaying for the vehicles and/or having the resale value of their cars diminish. The following make and model years were equipped with the defective ignition switch:

Saturn Ion 2003-2007
Chevrolet Cobalt 2005-2010
Chevrolet HHR 2006-2011
Saturn Sky 2007-2010
Pontiac G5 2007-2010
Pontiac Solstice 2006-2010

In addition to RICO claims, Greene LLP’s complaint asserts claims of fraudulent concealment, breach of implied warranties under Massachusetts law, and violations of the Michigan Consumer Protection Act.

Leave a Reply