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New York Times Examines 13 Deaths Linked to GM Defect

The New York Times reports in a front-page story on the 13 deaths “General Motors has linked to an ignition switch defect that can cause a loss of power in cars,” noting that GM “has refused to disclose the names of the victims or details of the accidents – even to some survivors of the crashes and relatives of the dead.” According to an investigation by the Times, “12 victims died in 10 separate accidents in nine states and Canada, the earliest on July 4, 2004, the latest less than a year ago, on June 22, 2013.” Victims “ranged in age from a 13-year-old to an 81-year-old.” The Times notes that it “identified the 12 victims by following the criteria G.M. has indicated in public statements and documents and by conferring with various people who have knowledge of the list, including safety regulators in the United States and Canada as well as elected officials.”

GM raises number of crashes linked to ignition switches to 47. Bloomberg News reports that General Motors has revised its estimate of the number of car crashes connected “to small cars with defective ignition switches,” counting 47 cases, although still clarifying that the number of fatalities still stands at 13. The article notes that GM was commenting on a statement released before the weekend by acting NHTSA Administrator David Friedman in which Friedman said, “The final death toll associated with this safety defect is not known to NHTSA, but we believe it’s likely that more than 13 lives were lost.”

CNN’s Money reported from its website, the old number of crashes connected to the ignition problem was 32. Also, GM calculates that fixing all the vehicles it has recalled, so far, in 2014 would cost $1.7 billion. In other words, the costs of fixing GM’s recall problems “essentially erased the profit the company would have reported in the first quarter.”

NHTSA documents show GM attorneys advised engineers to “couch their reports in jargon.” The website Automotive News reported on an NHTSA-released document from May 16 that “showed that engineers” at GM “were encouraged to couch their reports in jargon,” with the company’s lawyers claiming that it would be better “to write ‘issue’ instead of ‘problem,’ and ‘does not perform to design’ instead of ‘defect.’”

NHTSA comments on death toll related to GM vehicle defects. The New York Times reports that acting NHTSA Administrator David Friedman stated, “The final death toll associated with this safety defect is not known to N.H.T.S.A., but we believe it’s likely that more than 13 lives were lost,” although Friedman noted that that number would probably go up as GM works through various lawsuits and consumer complaints. Friedman further commented in a statement, “G.M. would be in the position to determine additional cases related directly to this defect based on lawsuits, incident claims and additional data reported directly to the automaker from its customers, dealerships, insurance companies, safety groups and other sources.”

The Wall Street Journal reports that NHTSA is putting the onus of calculating the death toll on GM, although plaintiffs in wrongful deaths claims against GM are saying that the death toll is greater than 13.

Reuters reports that GM spokesperson Jim Cain responded to NHTSA’s statement by commenting, “To the best of our knowledge, there have been 13 fatalities that may be related to the ignition switch defect.” Cain added, “That’s after a thorough analysis of the information available to us. If we come across new information, of course, we will share it with the agency. We’re totally focused on fixing all of the cars as quickly as we can.”

Barclays analyst: GM recalls may continue into summer. CBS News reports from its website that Barclays Capital analyst Brian Johnson said that GM “recall announcements may continue through mid-summer” after a meeting Johnson had with GM Executive Vice President Mark Reuss and Executive VP and CFO Chuck Stevens. Johnson continued, though, by noting that “despite the ongoing recalls, the pace of sales in the U.S. appears steady.” The article also mentions DOT’s $35 million fine leveled against GM last week for the ignition-switch-related recalls, which affected 2.6 million vehicles.

The Detroit Bureau reports, Johnson also stated, “It is tough to say if recalls from past vehicles has already peaked, as the team has not yet completed mining the data,” further saying that “given the data-mining is being conducted on an issue by issue, and not on a make and model-year basis, it is possible that GM may issue further recalls for vehicles which have already been recalled.” Reuters also reports.

The website of the Investor Place has similar coverage on the number of recalled vehicles, adding that the automaker is now also responsible for putting in place “sweeping changes to its internal review of safety-related issues.” According to the report, Federal rules stipulate that car manufacturers must give NHTSA notice “within five business days of determining that a safety-related defect exists.”

GM recalls 500 pickups, SUVs for air bag issues. The AP reports that GM is adding “about 500 pickup trucks and SUVs” to its recall list for problems related to the air bag. This makes GM’s “30th recall so far this year,” the article points out, further noting that in 2014 the automaker “has recalled more than 13.8 million vehicles in the U.S.”

USA Today reports online that the affected models are from the 2014 and 2015 model years and are being recalled “because a supplier provided a potentially faulty part in the control module for the trucks’ airbags.” The Wall Street Journal also reports.

GM, Delphi win delay of four Texas customer injury suits. Bloomberg News reports that GM and Delphi Automotive Systems LLC both received “a delay of four lawsuits by Texas customers” for incidents related to recalled vehicles, after filing emergency requests with the Texas courts.

From the new release of the American Association for Justice.

Bob Kraft

I am a Dallas, Texas lawyer who has had the privilege of helping thousands of clients since 1971 in the areas of Personal Injury law and Social Security Disability.

About This Blog

The title of this blog reflects my attitude toward those government agencies and insurance companies that routinely mistreat injured or disabled people. As a Dallas, Texas lawyer, I've spent more than 45 years trying to help those poor folk, and I have been frustrated daily by the actions of the people on the other side of their claims. (Sorry if I offended you...)

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