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General Motors Issues Recall For 1.3 Million Cars, Deaths Linked To Airbag Issues

Posted on: March 19, 2014

Auto manufacturer General Motors Company (GMC) has issued a recall for more than 1.6 million cars, including particular model years for the Saturn Ion, Chevrolet HHR, Pontiac Solstice, Chevrolet Cobalt, and Pontiac G5s. For most models, the years are in the 2005 to 2007 range. The recall has been linked to the deaths of several persons, including at least one Maryland resident.

What is the Defect?

USA Today reports that the recall is related to a defect in the ignition system, which could allow the ignition to move from the “run” to “accessory” mode if it was jarred or pulled by a heavy keychain. This would in turn shut off the engine and potentially disable the airbags.

General Motors admits that the ignition defect has been linked to 13 deaths and 31 crashes; however, there are some that contend the number of deaths is much higher.

Friedman Research, a company that analyses vehicle safety data, claims to have linked the deaths of 303 people to accidents in which the airbags of their General Motors vehicles failed to deploy. Although the exact number of deaths is disputed, as information about the defect becomes more widely available it is possible for the number to rise.

Maryland Products Liability Law and Airbag Defects

The General Motors ignition defect has led to the filing of several wrongful death lawsuits and settlements. In cases like this, a Maryland products liability attorney may file legal claims based on several different theories including product liability for manufacturing or design defect, product liability for failure to warn, negligence, and breach of warranty.

Because in Maryland there is strict liability for products with manufacturing or design defects, this is often the strongest legal theory. Unlike with a claim for negligence, an auto manufacturer cannot raise contributory negligence as a defense to a products liability claim.

In Maryland, for a Plaintiff to succeed on a claim for a manufacturing or design defect, a plaintiff must prove several elements:
1) The product must have been defective when it left the control of the manufacturer. If, for example, the product became defective afterwards because of the buyer’s negligence in maintaining the product, this element will not be satisfied.

2) The product must be unreasonably dangerous. In cases where there have been multiple deaths attributed to a defect, this element is less difficult to prove.

3) The plaintiff must prove that the product’s defect caused the plaintiff’s injuries. This may be the most difficult element, because General Motors may be able to argue that the airbags did not deploy due to the physics of the particular crash, or that the plaintiff would have been injured even if the airbags deployed.

4) There must have been no substantial change in the product prior to its having reached the plaintiff. For example, General Motors could argue as a defense that the automobile dealer tampered with the airbags of the vehicle after it left General Motors, if there was evidence to support this argument.

See Our Related Blog Posts

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Justin Katz is a personal injury lawyer who represents injury victims in Maryland, Virginia and Washington DC
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The lawyer who was initially handling my case parted ways with the company and I was assigned a new lawyer. This new lawyer was amazing! Christina Franetovich made me feel secure by double checking all the facts and notes in my case so that I was not worried during this transition. I was on disability from an a different accident while she was finalizing my case, and I had called and hounded her about the time frame of my settlement very frequently to the point that I felt guilty for calling so much. Christina was very sympathetic to my situation and assured me that she would do everything in her power to make sure the situation would be resolved quickly. She actually finalized my case before the time frame she had given me, was always very courteous and knowledgable on the phone, and I feel extremely lucky that she ended up handling my case because the previous lawyer was not as amazing with customer service as Christina. She also has a way of making you feel comfortable and builds incredible rapport quickly. I am going to highly recommend her to my friends and family. Thank you Christina!!!
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My husband and I were in a car accident in August 2017. We contacted Bob Katz team for legal representation in our case. Kristen A. Turner was our paralegal and she was excellent. It took 9 months for us to receive our settlement and Kristen kept us updated throughout this entire process. She was very kind and patient as I happened to have several questions. She always answered my questions promptly and thoroughly. I would highly recommend this firm and Kristen if you are in need of legal assistance.
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If you ever need any assistance with an accident or injury-related claim this is the firm you need hands down. These are the most professional and caring people I have ever met in my life. Two people you should contact are Rebecca Slattery who was actually my paralegal and also Allan Serrano. You will be in good hands.
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