Hagens Berman, a consumer-rights law firm that recently settled the $1.6 billion case against Toyota, today announced it has filed a class-action lawsuit seeking statutory penalties and punitive damages against automaker General Motors (NYSE:GM) on behalf of owners of 1.4 million vehicles affected by a safety defect.
The safety defect at issue has been linked to 12 fatalities and more than 300 crashes. Hagens Berman continues its investigation into whether this defect exists in other models not yet recalled.
The suit seeks to recover from G.M. minimum statutory damages of $250 for each owner, which alone totals more than $350 million and could go higher, along with punitive damage for the willful nondisclosure of critical safety information.
The safety defect involves the car’s ignition, which according to consumers, can switch off while in operation, disabling airbags and other electrical features such as power steering and power brakes.
The 42-page complaint, filed March 19, 2014 in the U.S. District Court of California, Central District, states that G.M. failed to alert consumers of the known risks they faced driving the vehicles, despite promising it would honor the federal reporting requirement of safety risks for all General Motors cars including assets purchased from the 2009 bankruptcy.
“The highest duty for a car manufacturer is to act in the best interests of its customers when it comes to safety,” said Steve Berman, managing partner of Hagens Berman and the lead counsel of the recently settled Toyota litigation. “G.M.’s inaction – sitting mute while people died – rises to the level of criminal in my book. While civil in nature, we believe it is a step toward holding G.M. accountable for its inaction.”
The firm seeks to represent all individuals who owned or leased a G.M. vehicle affected by the recall including 2005-7 Chevrolet Cobalts and 2007 Pontiac G5 models, and last month extended the recall to include 2003-7 Saturn Ions, 2006-7 Chevrolet HHRs, 2006-7 Pontiac Solstice and 2007 Saturn Sky models.