$120M settlement reached in GM ignition switch lawsuit

COLUMBIA, SC – South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson announced a $120 million settlement with General Motors Company over allegations GM concealed safety issues related to ignition-switch-related defects on Friday.

The settlement, reached between the attorneys general of 49 states and the District of Columbia and GM, concludes a multi-state investigation into the auto manufacturer’s failure to timely disclose known safety defects associated with unintended key-rotation-related and/or ignition-switch-related issues in several models and model years of GM vehicles.

“This settlement will make all South Carolina drivers safer,” Attorney General Wilson said in a press release. “Even if you don’t have a defective GM vehicle, those who do could crash into you or your family.”

In 2014, GM issued seven vehicle recalls in response to unintended key-rotation-related and/or ignition-switch-related issues, which have affected over 9 million vehicles in the U.S. The recalls involved a defective ignition switch which could move out of the “Run” position to the “Accessory” or “Off” position.

If the switch changes position, the driver experiences a loss of electrical systems, including power steering and power brakes.  If a collision occurs while the ignition switch is in the “Accessory” or “Off” position, the vehicle’s safety airbags may also fail to deploy.

As the states alleged, certain employees of GM and General Motors Corporation knew as early as 2004 that the ignition switch posed a safety defect because it could cause airbag non-deployment. However, despite this knowledge, GM decided it wasn’t a safety concern and delayed making recalls. GM continued to market the reliability and safety of its motor vehicles which were equipped with this defective ignition switch.

The states alleged that these actions were unfair and deceptive and that the automaker’s actions violated state consumer protection laws, including South Carolina’s Unfair Trade Practices Act.

Under a consent judgment, which will be presented to the Richland County Circuit Court, GM shall:

  • Not represent that a motor vehicle is “safe” unless they have complied with the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety standards applicable to the motor vehicle at issue.
  • Not represent that certified pre-owned vehicles that GM advertises are safe, have been repaired for safety issues, or have been subject to rigorous inspection, unless such vehicles are not subject to any open recalls relating to safety or have been repaired pursuant to such a recall.
  • Instruct its dealers that all applicable recall repairs must be completed before any GM motor vehicle sold in the U.S. and included in a recall is eligible for certification and, if there is a recall on any certified pre-owned vehicle sold in the U.S., the required repair must be completed before the vehicle is delivered to a customer.

GM also agreed to pay the participating attorneys general a total of $120 Million, of which South Carolina’s share is $5,079,096.21, subject to court approval.

Information above is from a submitted press release.