A Case Study Review Of General Motors And Faulty Ignition Switches

Table of Contents

The Switch

Tort liability issues


This is Timeline 2001

The Switch

It was the 2001 switch that saved lives and broke many hearts. General Motors manufactured a defective ignition switch for several models, the Cobalt being one. Consumer Safety.org states that these malfunctions led to at least 124 deaths and nearly 3000 injuries. The detent plug connects to the plastic piece and is activated by turning the ignition. It functions in the same way as a pen. Once it has been pushed in, it will go to the accessory modes. This allows for music, lights, and other functions. If your car is driving down the road, and you hit a bump, it will shut down immediately and lose power. The 2005 model’s detent plunger was replaced with a newer version that was 15% larger than the earlier model.

Brooke Melton was killed when her car crashed into oncoming traffic in 2010. Brooke’s family fought for her justice. The father’s determination was key to unlocking several other cases. These cases were settled out-of-court and paid very little for the families of those who died due to the defective ignition switch. Brooke was referred to an expert by her father who investigated the car. The computer contained some of Brookes’ secrets. The expert discovered that Brooke’s car had jumped extremely fast from high speeds to zero right before impact. The mechanic was then informed that something had gone wrong. Lawyers being scared to challenge a giant company like GM was one of the main reasons that settlements were not reached in court. Gm only began recalling cars in 2014. Here’s a list of Connecticut negligence statutes. Sec. 52-572h. Negligence cases. Relevant doctrines. Multiple tortfeasors could be held liable. (1) “Economic losses” means any damages determined by the Trier of Fact for pecuniary or non-economic losses. This includes, but is not restricted to, set-offs credit, comparative negligence additur/remittitur; and (4) “recoverable other damages” means any noneconomic damages reduced as a result of any applicable findings.

A cause of action that is based solely on negligence will not allow for the recovery of damages by any person or person’s legal representative. The negligence should not exceed the combined negligence of the person against whom recovery is sought. The proportion of negligence attributable that person is able to recover the economic or other damages will be reduced. This shall be determined under subsection (f).

If a negligence action is brought to recover damages for personal injury, wrongful deaths, or property damage that occurred after October 1, 1987 then each party to which recovery is allowed will be held responsible only for its proportionate share of recoverable economic damages.

The proportionate share for each party of damages is calculated by multiplying both the recoverable and noneconomic damages with a fraction. In this fraction, the numerator will be the party’s percent of negligence. The denominator will be the sum of all the percentages. All percentages that were negligent in causing the injury, death or property damage, including settlement or release persons, shall be determined according to subsection(f) of these sections. The fraction denominator will not include any negligence percentage attributable to the claimant.

Any action in which this section applies, the court’s instructions to the juror shall explain to them the effects on the awards and liabilities of each party’s negligence.

The jury shall, or if there isn’t one, specify: (1) How much economic damage was sustained; (2) how much noneconomic damage was sustained; (3) any finding of fact that would allow the court to quantify recoverable economic and noneconomic damages; (4) how much negligence caused the injury to, death or property damage in relation to one hundred percent; (5) the percentage of such negligence that was attributable solely to the claimant.

After the claimant files a motion to open the judgment, the court will determine if a defendant’s proportionate portion of the recoverable financial damages and noneconomic damages is not collectible from him or her. The court shall then reallocate the uncollectible amount among other defendants according to the provisions of subsection. (2) The court shall direct that the uncollectible amount representing recoverable noneconomic damage be divided among the other defendants based on their respective percentages of negligence. However, such allocation shall not exceed the defendant’s percentage of negligence multiplied times the uncollectible amount. The court shall order the reallocation of the recoverable amount of the uncollectible money to the other defendants. The court shall assign to any such other defendant an uncollectible amount representing recoverable economic damages multiplied in part by a fraction. In this fraction, the numerator indicates such defendant’s percentage or negligence while the denominator shows the total percentages for all defendants. (4) However, the defendant whose liabilities are reallocated are still subject to contributions pursuant to subsection(h) of the section and to any continuing responsibility to the claimant.

Parties are allowed to contribute if they pay more than the proportionate share under subsection (g). A party seeking a contribution can only collect the amount it paid over its proportionate portion of the judgment.

A claim for contribution must be filed within two years of the payment made by the party seeking to contribute.

This section will not affect any rights of subrogation that arise from other relationships.

This section will not limit any rights to indemnity as provided by law. One tortfeasor may be entitled to indemnity. However, indemnity is only for indemnity. Contribution from the indemnitee cannot be claimed for any portion.

This section does not apply to breaches or other fiduciary obligations.

The legal doctrines relating to last clear chance and taking on risk in actions are no longer applicable.

The family car doctrine is not to be used to infute contributory or comparable negligence pursuant to this subsection to any owner of any motor vessel or motor vehicle.

A claimant may enter into a settlement, release, or other similar agreement with another person to relieve that person from all responsibility for contribution. However, the agreement does not exonerate any other person liable under the same claim. The amount of negligence that the released person has incurred is reduced to reduce the damages award.

Except as permitted by subsection (b) below, there is no apportionment between parties liable under negligence or parties liable under other circumstances.

History: P.A. 82-160 added Subsec. (d) Re family car doctrine, previously Sec. 52-572i; P.A. 86-338 added provisions to the definitions of economic and noteconomic damages, the limitation on a person’s responsibility to his proportionate portion of recoverable damage, the calculation and reallocation of each person’s share of damages. Section 87-227 had been substantially revised. (n). Concerning the effects of a waiver, settlement or similar agreement regarding liability and the total damage award; P.A. Subsec. was amended technically by 88-364. (g); P.A. Subsec. 99-69 was added (o). The prohibition of the apportionment if liability or damages among parties liable for negligence or parties liable on a basis other than negligence was made and technical changes were made to gender neutrality. These changes became effective May 27, 1999.

Refer to Section. See Sec. 52-102b for information on adding a defendant to apportionment purposes.

Refer to the section. 52-225a Reduction in economic damages for personal injury and wrongful Death actions for collateral Source Payments.

Refer to Section. 52-225d Repayment in lump sum or in periodic installments of damages in personal injury, property damage and wrongful death actions

Cited. 170 C. 495, 516 (Diss. Op.). Cited. 175 C. 112, 115. Section did no abrogate common law rule against participation among joint tortfeasors. 176 C. 523-528. Cited 179 C. 372, 386-376; 181 C. 515 and 516; id. 650, 652. Cited. 182 C. 236, 237, 239, 241. Cited. 183 C. 473, 476. Cited. 184 C. 205, 212. Cited. 187 C. 339, 341. Cited. 188 C. 607, 615. Cited. 189 C. 601, 605. Cited. 190 C. 791, 797. Cited. 194 C. 645, 646. Cited. 196 C. 341, 353. Cited. 203 C. 607, 611. Cited. 205 C. 694, 702. P.A. 86-338 cited. 214 C. 1, 6, 7. Cited. 222 C. 775, 781, 782. Cited. 228 C. 441, 455. Cited. 231 C. 77-79, 89. Cited. 232 C. 559, 560, 583, 584, 586. Cited. 234 C. 660, 661, 664, 665, 668-670. Cited. 235 C. 107, 120, 121. Cited. 236 C. 625, 634. Cited. Id., 670, 673. Cited. 239 C. 798. Cited. 240 C. 694. Cited. 241 C. 399. Cited. 242 C. 169. The section is clear in that it only allows defendants to be cited for liability purposes. 246 C. 223. The Supreme Court extended the scope of this section to allow for the apportionment of a negligent and an intentionally tortfeasor. Id. Section does not apply to complaints based on negligence or strict liability. Product liability is a simple form of the apportionment principles. 253 C. 787. By enacting P.A. 99-69, Sec. Connecticut’s legislature amended Section 52-572h to make it clear that there is no legal right for an injured party to divide liability between an intentional and negligent tortfeasor. 263 C. 358. Because statutes allow apportionment among negligent plaintiffs and because Connecticut has been designated as a comparative neglect jurisdiction, Sec. 52-572o. In cases where plaintiff is injured by multiple causes, it is easier and less confusing to have the jury determine the cause that caused the injury. Id., 424.

Cited. In 6 California 383, 389, it was stated that… Cited. 11 CA 1, seven. Cited. In the case of 14 CA 561, the court concluded that 569 was the result. Cited. Fifteen California cases numbered 392, 397, and 401. Cited. In 26 CA 509, the court opinion spanned from pages 511 to 514. Cited. According to a California court opinion from 30 CA 327, 332, . . . Cited. Thirty-three California numbers 714, 717, 719, 720, and 722. Cited. The passage cites CA 515 and 523. Cited. Forty-one, sixty-one to sixty-three, and sixty-five. Cited. Id., 856, 860. Cited. California has 46 counties. General verdict rule does not apply to the enactment of statute. Fifty-three California 399. The trial court should inform jury that it cannot determine the percentage of plaintiff’s damages attributable each tortfeasor to separate motor vehicle accidents. If this is not possible, jury can make a rough apportionment. If so, jury must equally distribute the damages among all the negligent parties. Fifty-seven California one hundred and thirty-four.

Tort Liability IssuesRegulations of administrative agencies help people avoid violating statues. This is done to protect property, borders and the products being sold. Tort liability is the strict products liability that applies to defective products sold in commerce. Any seller, wholesaler or manufacturer who sells a dangerous product that injures a worker at work or causes malfunctioning problems to the product will be subject to liability. Design defect is another tort liability. The product was designed according to manufacturer standards. However, the user is injured by its unsafe design. A dangerous product can be created when there is not enough testing. This can also count as a design flaw. The Plunger detent was too short and too wide. (Pagnattaro at pg301). The design defect in product liability cases is often the missing link in these cases.

Problem: The ignition switch does not catch the key when it is switched from accessory to start mode. While the key turns, it still works but the problem lies in its ability to remain in the accessory mode. This will cause the engine to stop turning and the driver may lose control. The slot was too narrow or too long for the detent plunger to fit in. General Motors realized the problem and decided to ignore it. General Motors ignored the issue. This could’ve saved their company and many lives.

This is the Timeline 2001: GM detected the defect in the Saturn Ion’s pre-production testing.

2003: Service technician concludes inquiry into Saturn Ion’s stalling Saturn Ion. After changing the keyring, the technician noticed the problem was resolved.

2004: GM has recognized the problem again, and the Chevrolet Cobalt replaces Cavalier.

The Chevrolet Cobalt is one of over 2 million GM cars that was recalled because it had a defective ignition.

General Motors, Inc. was recently in the news due to their announcement of new developments.

March 2005: GM rejects a proposed solution to the problem. It would be too expensive and too slow.

May 2005: The company is advised by a GM engineer to redesign its keyhead, but it rejects the recommendation.

May 24, 2005 – GM suffers a loss of $1.1 billion in its first quarter. It blames the union overhead as well as high gas prices, which have harmed sales of SUVs.

December 2005: GM provides dealers with a bulletin stating that a driver may have a defect if they are short and have a heavy keychain. The customer should also be aware of the possibility and should… [remove] any unimportant items from the keychain.”

July 29, 2005: Amber Marie Rose (16 years old) from Maryland dies in an accident in which her 2005 Chevrolet Cobalt collides with a tree.

December 2005: GM issues a Service Bulletin announcing a problem but doesn’t issue a recall.

July 26, 2006: GM losses $3.2 billion in its second quarter. The company absorbs the costs of early retirement buyouts for 30,000 blue-collar workers.

March 2007: Safety regulators inform GM concerning Amber Rose’s tragic death. GM has not opened an investigation.

April 2007: The ignition defect is the focus of an investigation into the fatal Wisconsin Chevrolet Cobalt collision. But regulators don’t conduct such an investigation.

September 2007: An NHTSA official sends an email to the Office of Defects Investigation. It recommends that an investigation be conducted into the failure of airbags to deploy in crashes involving Saturn Ions’ and Chevrolet Cobalt’s. This inquiry was initiated by 29 complaints. Four fatal crashes were reported and fourteen field reports.

Nov. 17, 2007: NHTSA’s Office of Defects Investigation concludes that there are no links between air bags not being deployed and crashes. The proposed probe has been ended.

December 12, 2008: The U.S. Senate votes no to a government bailout for GM despite President George W. Bush’s support and President-elect Barack Obama’s announcement that GM is in danger of running out of money and will not survive beyond 2009.

Dec. 18, 2008: Bush declares that bankruptcy can be an option, provided it is “orderly” with unions and other stakeholders.

Dec. 19, 2008. Bush approves a bailout package, providing $13.4 billion to GM/Chrysler from the Troubled Asset Relief Program.

April 22, 2009. GM declares it will no longer be able pay its debts due on June 1, 2009.

April 24, 2009. GM will end Pontiac’s brand in favor of investing more in Buick/Cadillac, Chevrolet, and GMC.

Fritz Henderson, General Motors CEO and president, announced that GM would seek bankruptcy protection during a press conference on June 1, 2009.

A photo taken by Stan Honda of AFP/Getty Images.

June 1, 2009: GM files Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

July 10, 2009 – The U.S. Treasury purchased GM assets. This gave the government sole ownership.

February 2010: NHTSA recommands a probe into the problems with Cobalt-Air bags. ODI concludes that there is not a correlation and drops all charges.

October 26, 2010, Consumer Reports: GM is rated “reliable” based upon scores in road tests and crash tests.

2012: GM identifies six injuries from other crashes resulting from the defect and four fatalities.

September 4, 2012. GM reports August 2012 sales up 10 percent compared with the prior year. Chevrolet passenger vehicle sales up 25 per cent.

June 2013: A Cobalt engineer deposed, stating that the company made a decision “not to fix this issue”. This raises questions as to whether GM was conscious of the defect or if it deliberately launched the Cobalt.

December 9, 2013, at 10:59 p.m. Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew announces that the government has sold the remaining 60 percent of GM’s stake, ending the bailout. Taxpayers spent $49.5 billion to bail out GM, which cost $10 billion.

End 2013: GM has determined that the faulty ignition button is responsible for at most 31 accidents and 13 deaths.

Mary Barra, General Motors’s CEO, was questioned over her handling of the problem with the ignition switch.

Carlos Osorio/AP

Jan. 15, 2014 – Mary Barra takes over as CEO of GM.

Jan. 31, 2014 – Barra is informed by GM of the ignition switch problem.

February 7, 2014: GM informs NHTSA that it has found a defect in 619,122 vehicles.

February 13, 2014: GM recalls the 2005-2007 Chevrolet Cobalts and 2007 Pontiac G5s.

February 25, 2014: GM adds 748 024 more vehicles to its recall.

March 10, 2014: GM hires 2 law firms to investigate the recall. Anton Valukas (who investigated Lehman Brothers following the 2008 collapse of the firm), will lead the internal investigation.

March 17, 2014. GM recalls 1.55million vans and sedans.


  • codyyoung

    Cody Young is an educational blogger. Cody is currently a student at the University of Utah pursuing a degree in communications. Cody has a passion for writing and sharing knowledge with others.



Cody Young is an educational blogger. Cody is currently a student at the University of Utah pursuing a degree in communications. Cody has a passion for writing and sharing knowledge with others.

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