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From Products Liability Law Daily, October 16, 2014

Master class action complaint filed for GM ignition switch MDL

By John W. Scanlan, J.D.

A consolidated complaint intended to serve as the Master Class Action Complaint for litigation claims against General Motors, LLC, in connection with vehicles that contained allegedly defective ignition switches was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York pursuant to an order by that court. This complaint, which contains 151 nationwide and state class action claims, would govern for purposes of discovery, pre-trial motions and rulings, and the determination and trial of certified claims or common questions; it said that it would neither waive nor dismiss any claim not included in this proceeding except by operation of the class notice and any opt-out provisions (In re: General Motors LLC Ignition Switch Litigation, October 14, 2014).

Class allegations. The nationwide class would consist of any person who bought or leased a GM vehicle with a defective ignition switch before the old GM went bankrupt, and who still own or lease that vehicle or sold it on or after February14, 2014, or whose vehicle was declared a total loss after an accident on or after that date. These vehicles included the following: 2003-2007 Saturn Ion; 2005-2009 Chevrolet Cobalt; 2007-2009 Pontiac G5; 2006-2009 Chevrolet HHR; 2006-2009 Pontiac Solstice; 2007-2009 Saturn Sky; 2004-2005 Buick Regal LS & GS; 2005-2009 Buick Lacrosse; 2006-2009 Buick Lucerne; 2000-2005 Cadillac Deville; 2004-2009 Cadillac DTS; 2006-2009 Chevrolet Impala; 2000-2008 Chevrolet Monte Carlo; 2003-2009 Cadillac CTS; 2004-2006 Cadillac SRX; 1997-2005 Chevrolet Malibu; 2000-2005 Pontiac Grand Am; 2004-2008 Pontiac Grand Prix; 1998-2002 Oldsmobile Intrigue; 1999-2004 Oldsmobile Alero; or 2008-2009 Pontiac G8.

The plaintiffs also alleged statewide class action claims for class members in each of the 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico.

The complaint proposed 63 named plaintiffs from various states to serve as nationwide and state class representatives. Each of the vehicles named in the complaint contained substantially similar ignition switches and cylinders; as a result of the claimed defects, the switches allegedly could move inadvertently from “run” to “accessory” or “off” position during normal vehicle operation, causing sudden loss of engine power, power steering, power brakes, and certain safety features such as the airbags. The complaint listed 18 separate questions of law or fact that had common answers that would be the same for each class members, and asserted that common questions predominated over questions affecting only individual class members.

General allegations. The plaintiffs stated that their claims against GM were based on two separate theories of liability: the liability of post-bankruptcy “new GM” as a successor and mere continuation of the pre-bankruptcy “old GM,” and new GM’s own wrongful conduct and breaches of its own duties toward the members of the various classes. According to the complaint, which was brought against new GM as the sole defendant, new GM failed to disclose and affirmatively concealed known safety defects in vehicles manufactured by old GM. The plaintiffs alleged that new GM was aware of the ignition switch defects from the very date of its inception in July 2009, but engaged in deliberate and systematic concealment of defects. Not only were the class members’ vehicles reduced in value by the disclosure of GM’s unlawful conduct, but the announced recalls by new GM totaling more than 27 million vehicles in the first eight months of 2014 in addition to the ignition switch recalls, further diminished the value of the class members’ vehicles, the complaint stated.

The plaintiffs asserted that the “unprecedented” number of recalls and safety defects led to the conclusion that both old GM and new GM were incapable of building safe and defect-free vehicles and that they have systematically refused to remedy defects in vehicles already on the road.

The plaintiffs argued that all applicable statutes of limitations were tolled by the active and ongoing fraudulent concealment by both old GM and new GM and that new GM was estopped from relying upon any statutes of limitations in its defense.

Successor liability. According to the complaint, new GM was liable on a successor liability theory for old GM’s conduct. New GM enjoyed the benefits of old GM brands and knowingly undertook ongoing duties to the buyers of old GM vehicles to ensure the safety, function, and value of these vehicles; old GM promised on its website just prior to filing for bankruptcy that there would be no interruptions in GM’s honoring of its warranties, promotions, and loyalty program, and new GM also expressly assumed certain statutory requirements of old GM. The new company kept the same principle place of business and centers of operation, testing facilities, employees, manufacturing plants, dealerships, and logos and brand markings. New GM’s operations have consistently demonstrated continuity with old GM’s operations, and that the new company was a mere continuation or reincarnation of the old, the plaintiffs argued.

Specific allegations. For the nationwide class, the plaintiffs alleged violations of the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act, breach of the implied warranty of merchantability, fraudulent concealment, and unjust enrichment. For the state classes, the plaintiffs alleged violations of various state consumer protection acts, implied warranties of merchantability, and concealment.

Relief sought. The complaint sought approval of class certification. Furthermore, the plaintiffs asked for a declaration that GM’s conduct had been unlawful and deceptive and for the issuance of an injunction against any future similar conduct. They also asked for an injunction under which the court would monitor new GM’s response to problems with its recalls and defects and establish a court-monitored, GM-funded program to cover the recall-related expenses of class members. Finally, they asked for actual damages, punitive damages, attorneys’ fees and costs, and restitution and disgorgement of GM’s “ill-gotten gains.”

Previous filings. This filing joins other cases filed against GM since the recall was announced, including the following that were reported previously in Products Liability Law Daily: Jaward v. General Motors LLC (S.D. Mich., March 19, 2014); Smith v. General Motors LLC (Ala. Cir., March 24, 2014); Maciel v. General Motors, LLC (N.D. Cal., March 24, 2014); Benton v. General Motors LLC (DC Cal., March 26, 2014); Phillip v. General Motors, LLC (D. Ariz., April 4, 2014);Forbes v. General Motors, LLC (E.D. Pa., April 4, 2014); (Camlan, Inc. v. General Motors LLC (C.D. Cal., April 7, 2014); Malaga v. General Motors LLC (C.D. Cal., April 7, 2014); Van Pelt v. General Motors, LLC (N.D. Ga., April 11, 2014); Stafford v. General Motors, LLC(N.D. Cal., April 11, 2014); Saclo v. General Motors, LLC (C.D. Cal., April 16, 2014); Salazar v. General Motors LLC (W.D. Tex, April 21, 2014); Fugate v. General Motors, LLC (E.D. Ky., May 2, 2014);Powell v. General Motors, LLC (N.D. Ohio, May 2, 2014); Taylor v. General Motors, LLC (S.D. Fla., May 2, 2014); Melton v. General Motors, LLC (Ga. Court of Cobb County, May 12, 2014); Holliday v. General Motors, LLC, (E.D. Tex., May 15, 2014); Higginbotham v. General Motors LLC (E.D. Ark., May 20, 2014);Nettleton Auto Sales, Inc. v. General Motors LLC (E.D. Ark., May 23, 2014); Spangler v. General Motors, LLC (C.D. Cal., May 27, 2014); Smith v. General Motors, LLC, (N.D. Miss., June 4, 2014); Stafford-Chapman v. General Motors, LLC (S.D. Ohio, June 5, 2014; Yingling v. General Motors, L.L.C. (W.D. Pa., June 5, 2014); Jones v. General Motors, LLC (D.D.C. June 23, 2014); Shotwell v. General Motors, LLC (S.D. Miss., June 26, 2014); Lambeth v. General Motors, LLC (M.D.N.C., July 1, 2014); Duncan v. General Motors LLC, (W.D. Mo., July 3 2014); and Hamilton v. General Motors, LLC, (D. Colo. August 8, 2014); In re: GeneralMotors LLC Ignition Switch Litigation-Edwards v. GeneralMotors, LLC (S.D. N.Y. August 25, 2014); Proctor v. General Motors LLC (M.D. Fla. September 23, 2014); In re: General Motors LLC Ignition (McCormick v. General Motors, LLC (E.D. Tex. September 24, 2014). In addition, there was on district attorney filing: People v. GeneralMotors LLC (Cal. Super., June 26, 2014).

The case numbers are Index No. 14-MD-2543 (JMF); 14-MC-2543 .

Attorneys: Cassandra P. Miller (Edelman, Combs, Latturner & Goodwin LLC) for Ruby Woodward. Andrew Baker Bloomer (Kirkland & Ellis LLP), Arthur J. Steinberg (King & Spalding LLP), and Benjamin Houston Joyce (Hood Law Firm) for General Motors LLC, General Motors Co., and General Motors Holding, LLC. Michael T. Navigato (Bochte, Kuzniar & Navigato, LLP) for Don McCue Chevrolet, Inc. Eamon Paul Joyce (Sidley Austin LLP) for Delphi Automotive PLC.

Companies: General Motors LLC; General Motors Co.; General Motors Holding, LLC; Don McCue Chevrolet, Inc.; Delphi Automotive PLC.

MainStory: TopStory MotorVehiclesNews DesignManufacturingNews DamagesNews NewYorkNews

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