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New Evidence Questions Valukas Report in GM Recall

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General Motors (GM) initially announced their ignition switch recall in February 2014. At that time, they alerted government regulators and the public that in several of their vehicles, the ignition switch could turn off of its own accord, potentially robbing air bags of their power to deploy during an accident.

The company has since been criticized for their mishandling of the problem. Evidence released during early lawsuits revealed that some individuals in the company were aware of the issue as early as 2004. Yet top company officials have insisted they were unaware of the problem until just before they took action to correct it.

Now, according to a recent report by the Wall Street Journal (WSJ), emails have surfaced showing that GM ordered 500,000 replacement ignition switches to fix the affected cars two months before the recall.

Court Evidence Shows a Trail of Emails

WSJ states that the “email exchanges took place in mid-December 2013 between a GM contract worker and the auto maker’s ignition-switch supplier, Delphi Automotive PLC.” The emails show that the company ordered the replacement switches “one day after a meeting of senior executives,” and that the order was labeled as “urgent.”

The evidence came to light as Delphi produced documents to comply with a discovery order connected to a New York GM lawsuit. The case involves a group of plaintiffs who have claimed to have suffered injuries and/or death connected to the ignition switch defect. The case is expected to go to trial at the beginning of 2016.

Placing the order for the switches isn’t necessarily a problem in itself—it’s the fact that the company did it “behind closed doors,” without notifying regulators or the public of the issue until two months later. Attorneys representing plaintiffs seeking damages from GM will likely use this new evidence to show that the company failed to take appropriate steps at the appropriate time to protect car buyers.

Does This Make the Valukas Report Invalid?

The new evidence also calls into question the so-called “Valukas” report, the result of an investigation completed by Chicago attorney Anton Valukas. At GM’s request, Valukas researched the recall timeline, and produced a 315-page report detailing all the steps the company took along the way.

Congress and other investigating entities have referred to this report to help them understand the timeline of GM’s response to the ignition switch defect. The report contained no mention of the parts order with Delphi, however, and now some are raising the question as to whether it can still be considered valid.

The report first came out in May 2014, after which GM Chief Executive Mary Barra “dismissed 15 managers, engineers, and lawyers,” according to WSJ.

Who Knew What, When?

The new email evidence also raises the question of who knew what and when, when it comes to company executives. Barra has stated she was unaware of the problem until late December. Was she at the meeting the day before the ignition-switch order emails? At the time, her position was head of global product development and purchasing and supply. Minutes were not kept for the meeting, but two days later, another email confirmed that the order had been placed.