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Eric T. Chaffin
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GM Facing Over 100 Individual Ignition-Switch Lawsuits

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General Motors (GM) now faces over 100 lawsuits involving complaints about its ignition switch defect, which has been linked to 52 deaths and over 100 injuries.

The company has already offered settlements to the families of the 52 killed in ignition-switch-related accidents, and to 79 injured plaintiffs as well, through the GM settlement fund. These other over 100 lawsuits were filed separately from the fund, however, and are still pending in courts around the country and in the MDL in the Southern District of New York.

Another over 100 so-called “economic” lawsuits seek class action status, with plaintiffs claiming that GM’s mishandling of the defect affected the worth of their vehicles, reducing their resale value and costing customers and dealerships money. About 20 more such lawsuits have been filed in Canada.

GM Recalls Increased in 2014

GM began recalling even more vehicles in February 2015, when it pulled back over 750,000 Chevy Cobalt and Pontiac G5 vehicles because of problems related to the ignition switches. Some of these switches had been found to turn off on their own, without warning, robbing brakes, steering, and air bags of power. When this occurred during an accident, it could prevent the air bags from deploying, resulting in serious and sometimes fatal injuries to vehicle occupants.

Once the recalls began, it seemed there was no end. GM expanded the first one in later February to include 1.6 million cars, and again on March 28 to include an additional over 820,000. By the end of 2014, the manufacturer had recalled more vehicles in a single year than any other automaker in history.

Still, critics said the recalls were too little too late, as evidence revealed that GM had been aware of the problem for at least a decade prior to taking meaningful action.

GM Still Pulled a Profit

According to CBS News, GM still pulled a profit in 2014 despite the recalls, which were estimated to cost $2.8 billion for replacement parts and death and injury claims. The drop in gas prices and rising economy resulted in more buyers for their trucks and large SUVs.

Recall costs are expected to continue to increase in 2015, however, as more people file claims against the company seeking compensation for ignition-switch related injuries and deaths, and economic losses. The company is also still under federal investigation, which may result in additional fines and criminal penalties depending on the findings.

Will GM Economic Lawsuits Go Forward?

According to the Wall Street Journal, GM intends to fight the “economic” lawsuits filed by plaintiffs who believe they should be compensated for monetary losses. Part of the issue is that GM went bankrupt in 2009. GM says once the sale to the U.S. government was approved (in the bail-out), it discarded its lawsuit liabilities. It also claims that its vehicles have not lost value, as plaintiffs claim.

Plaintiffs argue that GM should still be on the hook for reduced-value claims as car owners were not informed of the ignition-switch issue before the bankruptcy went through.