Newly released emails show GM ordered replacement parts two months before notifying federal safety officials of a deadly ignition switch defect. Officials with the National legal and Policy Center, a nonprofit organization that promotes ethics in public life through research, investigation, education and legal action, this week called upon the House Committee on Oversight & Government Reform to investigate evidence suggesting that General Motors purposefully delayed the recall of defective ignition switches.
The move comes with reports of the 38th death confirmed to be linked with the faulty switches and news of emails that show the company ordered 500,000 replacement switches a full two months before it notified safety regulators of the defect. News of the defect first hit in February 2014, with notification to the US Department of Transportation’s National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) that the company was recalling 780,000 vehicles.
GM warned that the ignition switches were known to shift out of place, causing a vehicle’s engine to stall and shutting down multiple functions including power steering, power brakes and airbag deployment mechanisms. Weeks later, GM expanded the recall and admitted that it had known about the problem – which could have been fixed with a 57-cent part – for more than a decade. In the months since, a rash of lawsuits have been filed against GM over deaths and injuries believed to have been caused by the defective switches, and new GM CEO Mary Barra testified before the US House Energy Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, saying “When we have answers, we will be fully transparent with you, with our regulators and with our customers.”
Now, emails released in a Texas court case allegedly prove that GM placed an “urgent” order for a half-million replacement ignition switches to be delivered “ASAP” on or around December 18, 2013. Yet, the defect wasn’t reported to the NHTSA until February 13, 2014 – nearly two months later. While GM contends that ordering parts before issuing a recall is standard procedure, attorneys argue that the delay needlessly put millions of customers at risk. In the Texas case alone, it’s alleged that a timely warning might have prevented at least one death and 85 injuries. To date, GM has recalled some 29 million cars in North America this year, most of which involve the faulty ignition switches. While GM has thus far approved 38 death claims for compensation, a Reuters investigation claims the true death toll surpasses 150.
If you or a loved one have suffered an injury that you believe was caused by a malfunctioning ignition switch in a vehicle affected by the recall, get medical attention and contact a product liability attorney with Jacksonville’s Harrell and Harrell at 800-251-1111.