Civil suit filed against GM by families of two crash victims.

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Recall Notices

ABC World News broadcast on “a new lawsuit against General Motors over that massive recall,” involving “the family of two teenagers killed in a crash filing suit against GM because of that faulty ignition switch that led to the recall of more than one and a half million cars.” Although, “GM did not comment on the suit,” the broadcast continued, the company “said it’s focused on insuring the safety of all customers involved in the recall.”

Bloomberg News  reports, the case was filed yesterday in Minneapolis by attorney Bob Hilliard of Hilliard Munoz Gonzales LLP of Corpus Christi, Texas, “involving two fatalities in a 2006 car crash.” Hilliard’s clients claim that GM was negligent “in designing and manufacturing the switch.” The report also notes that Hilliard filed a different suit last week that “proposed class action” against GM “seeking as much as $10 billion to compensate GM car owners for the diminished value of vehicles affected by the recall.”

The AP  reports that the October 2006 crash in question killed 18-year-old Natasha Weigel and 15-year-old Amy Rademaker. The vehicle was a 2005 Chevrolet Cobalt, driven at the time by another teenager, Megan Phillips, who has since “suffered permanent brain damage.” The report adds that this incident “was among the first blamed on the faulty ignition switches,” which GM “has admitted knowing about … for at least 11 years before taking the action” to recall 1.6 million of its compact cars. According to a statement from Hilliard’s firm, “GM hid this dangerous, life-threatening defect from my clients and all other Cobalt drivers for over a decade just to avoid the cost of a recall.”

The Detroit Free Press reports that “legal experts say GM may be obligated to compensate victims from pre-bankruptcy crashes if the victims can prove GM did not disclose its knowledge of the defects while it was navigating bankruptcy.”

In continuing coverage, the Detroit Bureau (3/22, Eisenstein) reports that General Motors CEO Mary Barra will be in Washington on April 1 for “a grilling on Capitol Hill.” The GM chief executive will “testify on the same day as David Friedman,” NHTSA’s acting administrator, given that “the safety agency has also come under fire from some critics who question whether it failed to take action on its own to force a recall earlier.” A statement from House Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Fred Upton of Michigan said, “We look forward to hearing from both Mary Barra and Administrator Friedman.” Also, the report notes that Barra has put Jeff Boyer in charge of safety at GM. Barra said that “Jeff will have open access to me and our board. If there are obstacles in his way, he has authority to remove them. If he needs more resources, he will get them.

Hundreds of thousands of possibly defective GM vehicles still on the road.

USA Today reports online about the “hundreds of thousands of General Motors cars” still on the road even though they have “the same steering system that prompted a big Chevrolet Cobalt recall four years ago,” and “even though federal safety officials say they have duplicated the Cobalt defect in the non-recalled Saturn Ion.” NHTSA states it has been “actively investigating the potential safety defect” with power steering in Ions from 2004 to 2007 “and will take appropriate action based on the agency’s findings.” TrueCar.com provided its own analysis to USA Today and “found 335,204 of those Saturns still are on the road.” Another statement from NHTSA yesterday, however, said that “there are additional external factors to consider even when evaluating the same component in different vehicles, such as wheelbase, size of the tires, weight of the vehicle – all of which can affect the steering.”

Fox Business reports that the fact that GM has recalled 3.2 million vehicles for ignition switch trouble, air bag issues, brake problems, and questionable front-end impact tests “hasn’t stopped some dealers from selling the flagged cars.”

A report for NPR notes that “the number of vehicles recalled has more than doubled over the past 20 years — but most recalls go unnoticed by the general public.” Edmunds Vice President Scott Oldham comments, “I don’t think there’s a manufacturer out there that isn’t executing a recall at any given time.”

Bloomberg News reports on one of GM’s chief design engineers Gary Altman, who told “more than a dozen managers” in some time “around 2000” that “they needed to find other ways to reduce costs” on Chevrolet Cobalts and Saturn Ions, “including a suggestion to pull parts from existing models.” The report thus summarizes Altman’s advice as “build them for less.” The report continues, the Cobalts and Ions “were the product of a culture of cutting costs and squeezing suppliers.”

GM probe expands to possible bankruptcy fraud.

The New York Times reports that Federal authorities’ “nascent investigation” into General Motors “is looking in part into whether the automaker committed bankruptcy fraud by not disclosing defects that could lead to expensive future liabilities, a person briefed on the inquiry said on Friday.” The issue “is whether G.M. knew about the defect – a faulty ignition switch – when it filed for bankruptcy in 2009, and failed to fully disclose the problem, while realizing that it could lead to a cascade of liability claims.” The Times notes that while “it has been known that the Justice Department was investigating G.M., the interest in the bankruptcy filing is the first indication of what direction the inquiry may take.”

DOT asks IG to open independent audit of NHTSA in GM recalls.

Coverage of General Motors in the wake of its extensive vehicle recalls continues to appear in numerous outlets nationally and locally, as well as on two of the major broadcast networks. On Friday, Transportation Secretary Foxx directed Inspector General Calvin Scovel to open an investigation into how quickly NHTSA responded to safety complaints, while NHTSA and the General Counsel are also conducting their own review.

The CBS Evening News broadcast on yesterday’s announcement by Foxx, saying that “Foxx ordered an independent investigation into whether the government acted quickly enough to reports of safety problems in General Motors cars.” The brief broadcast noted that the recall, due to “an ignition defect,” is “linked to 12 deaths.”

We believe that obtaining legal satisfaction from those who harmed you shouldn’t require more hardship. That’s why we do everything we can to streamline the process, and we will file a lawsuit on your behalf if necessary. If you or a loved one has been affected by this recall, and you believe it caused an injury, contact Chhabra & Gibbs today by going to www.cglawms.com or by calling this number: 601-948-8005.

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