General Motors Product Recall

Allen & Allen is currently investigating claims for people who were injured or killed in accidents involving GM vehicles that were recently recalled due to defective ignition switches. If you or a loved one were injured in an accident involving one of those vehicles, please contact us today for a free consultation at 866-388-1307.

General Motors, one of the world’s largest and most respected automakers, announced in February that it was recalling nearly 1.6 million vehicles. At issue, a faulty ignition switch installed in certain cars manufactured between 2003 and 2007 has been linked to at least 13 deaths[1]. Recalls in the automobile industry are not entirely unexpected, but what marks this one apart from other recent recalls is how long GM knew of the problem before issuing the recall.

GM was made aware of the faulty ignition switch on at least three separate occasions prior to its February announcement: first, during the 2001 development of the Saturn Ion; second, in 2003 after the problem was supposed to have been fixed; and finally, during the 2004 pre-production work on the 2005 Chevy Cobalt[2]. The car company has been criticized for not taking action sooner, a critique that GM CEO Mary Barra has accepted. Recognizing that a problem exists, and accepting responsibility for it, however, are two different matters.

Given that the faulty ignition switches have been linked to 13 deaths so far, this might seem like a cut-and-dry product liability case at first glance. Ordinarily, companies can be held liable for injuries caused by defective products they sell to the public, whether the product suffered from a design defect or whether the individual product had a defect that occurred during the manufacturing process. In this situation, however, there are a number of factors complicating the issue. For example, many of the families of the victims involved simply do not know that the defective ignition switch played a role in the deaths of their loved ones[3].Even though GM has a list of the victims, the company has yet to make that list public[4].

Another factor complicating the issue is the fact that GM went through bankruptcy proceedings and a government-supervised reorganization in 2009[5]. On July 10, 2009, the bankruptcy essentially split GM into two companies, an “old” GM and a “new” GM[6]. As part of the deal brokered between GM and the government, “new” GM is not liable for product liability and other claims before that date[7]. These are the responsibilities of “old” GM, a shell company that most likely will not be able to compensate the victims[8].  The only responsibility “new” GM retained after those proceedings was the responsibility for the products themselves, like warranty claims and recalls[9].

Reactions to the recall have varied from disappointment to outright condemnation. A number of different lawsuits have been filed across the country, including a suit claiming GM defrauded its shareholders and a wrongful death suit[10]. The Center for Auto Safety has asked GM to release the names of the victims affected by the faulty ignition switch and to establish a victim’s fund[11]. Even the U.S. Justice Department has gotten involved, announcing in March that it will be conducting a criminal probe into GM’s actions.

If you or a family member has suffered a severe personal injury because of a defective product or has died in an accident involving a defective product, the experienced product liability attorneys at Allen, Allen, Allen & Allen can help. Call us at 866-388-1307 for a free consultation. We have offices across Virginia in Richmond, Charlottesville, Petersburg and Fredericksburg.

About the Author:  Jason Konvicka is a partner and medical malpractice attorney at Allen, Allen, Allen & Allen. He is a founding member of the firm’s medical malpractice team but his practice also includes serious and complex injury cases involving brain injurytruck accidents, burn victims, bus accidents and wrongful death. He is also experienced in handling defective product cases and defective drug cases.


[1] http://www.npr.org/2014/03/11/289067297/delayed-safety-recall-may-haunt-gm-as-it-continues-its-makeover

[2] www.usatoday.com/story/money/cars/2014/03/18/gm-ceo-president-reuss-recalls-safety/6557865

[3] money.cnn.com/2014/03/18/news/companies/gm-recall-victims/

[4] Id.

[5] www.usatoday.com/story/money/cars/2014/03/18/gm-ceo-president-reuss-recalls-safety/6557865

[6] Id.

[7] Id.

[8] Id.

[9] Id.

[10] www.nbcnews.com/business/autos/gm-facing-snowstorm-suits-over-its-ignition-switch-recall-n60766

[11] Id.