Lawsuit filed in Minnesota court against GM over faulty ignition switch

Case could prove to be an important test for the car company’s liability protectionThe families of two teenagers who were killed, and one who was seriously injured in a 2006 Wisconsin car crash are suing General Motors, according to the Minneapolis StarTribune. The families recently filed the wrongful death and brain injury suits in Hennepin County’s Fourth Judicial District Court where the car was purchased.

GM knew about defects

The lawsuit alleges that GM committed negligence and fraud when it failed to warn its consumers of a defect with the ignition switches in millions of its cars. The switches may slip into the “accessory” or “off” positions, disabling the power steering, brakes, and air bags while the cars are being driven.

The 2006 Wisconsin crash was one of the first attributed to the ignition switch problem, which recently led to a massive recall of millions of GM vehicles. The car company says that it knows of at least 13 deaths caused by crashes linked to the problem. USA Today reports that the death toll could be closer to 300.

GM says it knew of the defect for at least a decade without taking appropriate action. The plaintiffs in the lawsuit allege that because GM did not warn its consumers of the defect, the company is guilty of fraud.

Liability issue at stake

The case is particularly unique due to the liability issues at stake for GM. The car company is protected by a “liability shield” against claims linked to crashes that occurred before the automaker emerged from bankruptcy protection in 2009. Since the case above involves a 2006 crash, that would usually mean GM could not be held liable.

Lawyers are currently looking at ways of getting around this liability shield. If the plaintiffs can prove that GM was aware of the defect prior to 2009 but did nothing to warn affected car owners then it could be shown that the car owners did not know they had a cause for legal action until after GM exited bankruptcy protection. The faulty ignition switches were not publicly disclosed until early this year.

If the case is allowed to go forward then it could have implications for many lawsuits against GM that are likely to be brought around the country.

Dealing with personal injuries

As the above case demonstrates, a catastrophic accident can lead to devastating personal injuries and even death. In many cases, liability issues may be at the forefront, and as the ignition switch controversy shows, it can sometimes take years for such liability issues to come to the surface.

Anybody who has suffered a personal injury or whose loved one was killed in a motor vehicle accident should seek the advice of a qualified personal injury lawyer who can walk the client through the complexities of liability issues and may be able to help the client gain compensation for pain, suffering, and medical costs.