GM liable for punitive damages in ignition switch suits

Posted By Kinnard, Clayton & Beveridge || Nov 23, 2015

Some individuals in Tennessee may have heard about lawsuits against General Motors regarding faulty ignition switches. The company admitted it knew its ignition switches were faulty for about ten years despite waiting until February 2014 to recall the cars. At least 169 people have been killed in crashes related to the switches, and many others were injured.

In 2009, General Motors filed for bankruptcy. It emerged as what is known as "New GM," and it was shielded from its liabilities prior to the bankruptcy. However, on November 9, a federal bankruptcy judge ruled that the company may be held responsible because the new company has some of the same knowledge and employees as the old company.

The ignition switches would shut off the engine when they slipped out of position and shut down air bags, brakes and steering. One attorney who represents a number of people who have filed injury and wrongful death suits against the company says there 250 or more lawsuits pending, and GM could owe billions of dollars in punitive damages. Punitive damages are usually higher than compensation for loss. Plaintiffs who want to claim punitive damages will have to base their case on knowledge held by "New GM," but it can be knowledge carried over from "Old GM."

Consumers trust car companies and other manufacturers to make safe products and to alert them when products turn out to have defects. When an individual suffers an injury due to a faulty product, the individual may wish to speak to an attorney about filing a civil suit. In some cases, a company may choose to settle out of court. In other cases, there may be a class-action suit by consumers. An attorney may be able to discuss these options as well as the conditions under which punitive damages can be sought.

Categories: Product Liability
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