GM class actions transferred to multidistrict litigation court

By Kyla Asbury | Jul 22, 2014

NEW YORK (Legal Newsline) – The multiple class action lawsuits that were brought against General Motors for its allegedly defective key systems have been transferred to multidistrict litigation court.

The more than 40 lawsuits – which were previously filed in the districts in California, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania and Texas – have been transferred to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, according to the transfer order filed June 9. 

“The parties have suggested a number of able transferee districts and judges,” the order states. “We have settled upon the Southern District of New York as the most appropriate choice. The Southern District of New York is the site of the bankruptcies of both General Motors and Delphi.”

The Southern District of New York Bankruptcy Court already has been called upon by both General Motors and certain plaintiffs to determine whether the 2009 General Motors bankruptcy Sale Order prohibits plaintiffs’ ignition switch defect lawsuits, according to the order.

“Several judges in this district, including Judge Jesse M. Furman, have heard appeals related to General Motors’ bankruptcy and, therefore, have some familiarity with the common defendant and its prior bankruptcy proceedings,” the order states. “Judge Furman is an experienced transferee judge with the ability to handle these complex proceedings expeditiously.”

A motion for centralization and coordination into MDL was first filed on March 24.

“The common questions of fact and law between the pending overlapping proposed class actions, the efficiencies to be gained through centralized discovery and motion practice and the alleviation of the risk of inconsistent pretrial rulings all favor centralization of these related cases concerning the alleged ignition switch defect…” the motion stated.

One lawsuit, which was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California on March 24 by owners and lease-holders of GM cars, claimed GM concealed the problem for a decade.

The plaintiffs in that case – Galdina Maciel, Daniel Cortex, Cindy Wade, Zachary DeWitt, Roberta Cheraso, Demetrius Smith, Jenee Byrd, Asuhan Leyva, Jim Gresik, Barbara Ellis Steele, Maria Raygoza, Barbara Gray and Michele Bennett – purchased or leased vehicles manufactured by GM, including the 2005-2010 Chevrolet Cobalt, 2006-2007 Chevrolet HHR, 2006-2007 Pontiac Solstice, 2005-2007 Pontiac G5, 2003-2007 Saturn Ion and 2007 Saturn Sky vehicles.

Each of the defective vehicles contains a “uniformly designed ignition switch, which is substantially similar for all of the defective vehicles,” according to the suit.

The plaintiffs, who bought and leased GM’s cars in a number of states, claim the key system on the vehicles is prone to fail during ordinary and foreseeable driving situations.

The plaintiffs claim GM fraudulently concealed material facts regarding the scope and extent of problems with its key system, which has been linked to at least 31 crashes and 13 fatalities nationally.

The suit contends that GM knew its key system posed an “increase[ed] risk of injury or fatality” as far back as 2001 but failed to take proper steps to correct the defects, which could cause certain Chevrolet, Pontiac and Saturn cars to shut down without warning while being driven.

In addition to rendering the cars’ power steering and brakes inoperable, the ignition failures caused the safety airbags to stop functioning, putting drivers at extreme risk in a collision, the plaintiffs claim.

U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation case number: 2543

From Legal Newsline: Kyla Asbury can be reached at

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