GM Recall’s Impact on Kentucky Drivers

by Mandy Hicks

More than 2.5 million vehicles manufactured by General Motors have been recalled because of faulty ignition switches. GM announced the recall in mid-February, explaining that the ignition switches in certain of their vehicles could turn off while the car was being driven. When they turned off, the engine would stall, the power steering and brakes and air bag system would be disabled. Needless to say, this problem could present serious problems for Kentucky and Tennessee drivers who own the affected cars.

The cars currently known to be affected are: the 2007 Saturn Sky,  2006-2007 Pontiac Solstice, 2006-2007 Chevrolet HHR, 2005-2007 Chevrolet Cobalt and Pontiac G5, 2003-2007 Saturn Ion, and the 2005-2006 Pontiac Pursuit (Canada). Recently GM announced that it plans to start making repairs. Each repair takes about a half hour. Unfortunately, the replacement parts are only available on a limited basis. Meanwhile GM suggests drivers take certain steps in order to make their vehicles safe to drive.

The primary suggestion is to separate the ignition key from other keys and even the key fob or ring. Apparently, the added weight can the switch to turn off or switch to the accessory mode. The manufacturer also advises owners to set up appointments with their dealers to have their cars inspected and repaired. Although the number of switches is currently limited, there will be more new switches available over time.

A federal judge in Texas is currently determining whether to issue an emergency order that would require all the recalled cars to be parked. In that case, GM would be ordered to offer loaner cars to the affected consumers so long as the repairs are being completed.

We trust car manufacturers to build and sell cars that are safe to drive. If they sell cars that have defective parts, they endanger not only you, but also all other drivers and pedestrians on the street. Product liability lawsuits allow consumers to recover where there is not only a defective product (such as GM’s defective ignition switch) but also a personal injury, property damage or death that results from that defect. Product liability lawsuits arise from design defects, manufacturer defects, or inadequate warnings or instructions.

Under the Kentucky Product Liability Act, there are three available causes of action for product liability: strict liability, negligence, and breach of warranty. Whether you can recover any of these theories depends partly on factors such as whether the defendant placed the injuring product into the stream of commerce and your relationship to the defendant.

Similarly, under the Tennessee Products Liability Act, there are similar causes of actions for unreasonable dangerous and unsafe products such as:

  1. strict liability;
  2. negligence;
  3. breach of warranty;
  4. breach of express or implied warranty;
  5. failure to warn or instruct whether negligent or innocent;
  6. misrepresentation;
  7. concealment; and
  8. any other theories in tort or contract.

Under Tennessee law, there are similar statute of limitations for a product liability cause of action is the same as what applies to a personal injury or injury to property cause of action. Tennessee also employs a statute of repose for product liability causes of action that imposes further limitations.

Strict liability is the standard that is most favorable to plaintiffs. This standard requires plaintiffs to prove a causal connection between the defective product and their injuries. This causal connection would be clear, for example, in a defective brakes case where, because the brakes didn’t work, a plaintiff was unable to brake in time to avoid colliding with a car and so swerved into a telephone pole.

Your product liability attorney will have to research all possible defendants by looking at who designed, manufactured, distributed or certified the vehicle and relevant component parts. If you are seriously injured or a loved one is killed, you are likely to feel considerable grief, as well as stress about how you will pay the medical bills, the funeral expenses and other bills. The knowledgeable Kentucky personal injury attorneys of English, Lucas, Priest & Owsley may be able to help you. Contact us at (270) 781-6500 or via our online form.