Texas General Motors Lawsuit Alleges 29 Deaths, 600+ Injuries Due to Defective Ignitions

Oklahoma residents who have experienced tragedy due to an auto accident involving a General Motors vehicle should know that lawsuits being filed across the country allege that the accidents are due to the defective ignition switches which GM has recalled in millions of GM cars.

A Texas lawyer on Tuesday filed a lawsuit on behalf 658 plaintiffs who died or experienced serious injuries in GM vehicles. Corpus Christi attorney Robert Hilliard filed the lawsuit in the federal court of the Southern District of New York.

Why New York? The same New York federal court handled GM’s 2009 bankruptcy. One of the big questions in the rash of lawsuits now being filed against GM is how the bankruptcy affects the new litigation.

In theory, a bankruptcy ends plaintiffs’ and creditors’ claims based on actions and events that occurred before the bankruptcy. General Motors argues that the bankruptcy shields the “new GM” from many of the lawsuits now being filed against the company.

However, the bankruptcy shield can be removed or modified by a judge who determines that GM misrepresented or withheld relevant information during the bankruptcy proceedings. Most of the hundreds of lawsuits recently filed against GM allege that the company knew about its ignition switch problems for more than 10 years, but failed to inform the public or federal regulators, even when regulators inquired about problems occurring in GM cars.

This year General Motors has recalled an astonishing 29 million vehicles for a host of defects and malfunctions, including more than 17 million cars with defective ignition switches. Hundreds of deaths and serious injuries have been blamed on the ignition switch problem, which has caused car engines to turn off while the car is in operation, shutting down power steering, power brakes and air bags.

In addition to claims of deaths and injuries, many class action lawsuits have been filed on behalf of people who own GM cars that have lost value due to the problems as well as damage to the GM brand. In June, more than 40 such economic loss lawsuits from across the country, including Oklahoma, were consolidated into a multidistrict litigation (MDL). All of the economic loss cases have been transferred to the New York Southern District, on the belief that that district is best equipped to answer how the bankruptcy affects new GM litigation.

In its monthly statistical report on July 15, the MDL Judicial Panel announced that it now has 96 cases in its “General Motors LLC Ignition Switch Litigation.”

No MDL has been created so far for death and injury claims against GM. However, such an MDL is likely, and it is also likely that that MDL will also be assigned to the New York court. Hilliard and his 658 plaintiffs are one step ahead of the game by filing in New York in the first place.

Importantly, the 658 deaths and injuries represented in Hilliard’s lawsuit all occurred in crashes that have happened after GM’s 2009 bankruptcy. Hilliard says he has an additional 248 plaintiffs, including another 21 deaths, from accidents before the bankruptcy, which he will add to the litigation, if the judges allow.

The Texas lawsuit identifies 29 deaths. GM has admitted that the ignition malfunction has resulted in 13 deaths, but has contested higher totals, such as the more than 300 deaths that the nonprofit Center for Auto Safety says have occurred in GM car accidents similar to GM ignition-related accidents.

Two fatalities described in the Texas lawsuit are the deaths of Emma Dyer and Anthony Herman. In September 2005, Dyer was driving a new Saturn Ion with Herman as a passenger. While driving on a Texas highway, the power steering shut down on Dyer’s vehicle. The car crashed into a canal, where Dyer and Herman drowned.

Similar stories are coming to light across the nation. In many cases, until the slew of GM recalls announced this year, the victims did not know that a vehicle malfunction was the likely cause.

If you are an Oklahoma resident and you or a loved one has experienced tragedy in a car accident involving a GM car, contact us to discuss your legal rights and the possibility of obtaining financial compensation for medical bills, lost income, loss of companionship, pain and suffering, as well as punitive damages against General Motors.

For more information about GM lawsuits, see our webpage: “Ignition, Airbag Problems in Millions of GM Cars Cause Deaths, Injuries.”