The state of Arizona has filed a lawsuit against General Motors Co, claiming it put consumers at risk by hiding safety defects to avoid a major recall. The state seeks an estimated $3 billion in the suit.
Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne said civil penalties may go up to $10,000 per violation. About 300,000 of the 2.6 million vehicles recalled were registered in Arizona, the New York Times reported.
GM has been hit with numerous lawsuits this year since it announced a recall of 2.6 million vehicles due to an issue with the ignition switch that can cause it to slip of of position, which cuts power to steering, brakes and air bags. Horne said in a statement that hundreds of thousands of “unsuspecting” car owners and lessees in Arizona have been driving unsafe vehicles due to GM’s delayed recall, Reuters reported.
GM has argued that it should not face any lawsuits over safety issues on cars it manufacturered before it declared bankruptcy in 2009. Horne said that the “new GM” is still liable for the issues, however, because it concealed known safety defects in the vehicles.
[quote text_size=”small” author=”– Tom Horne” author_title=”Arizona Attorney General”]
New GM was not born innocent.
Arizona Attorney General
The lawsuit says that GM Chief Executive Mary Barra was informed in 2011 of the safety defects while she served as head of product development. GM received 4,800 consumer complaints and over 30,000 warranty repairs before disclosing the defect to the public.
On Thursday, GM said it had “not yet had a chance to read and assess the complaint,” although it said it was committed to proactive recalls whenever safety issues are identified.
GM recalled 2.6 million cars in February 2014 due to a defective ignition switch. Thirteen victims have been tied to the defect. In one case, a woman, Candice Anderson, was behind the wheel in 2004 when her car veered off the road and struck a tree, killing her boyfriend. She pleaded guilty to criminally negligent homicide and spent almost ten years in prison. The accident was originally attributed to intoxication based on police observations. Reporter Rebecca Ruiz obtained the toxicology report, which showed trace amounts of anxiety medication, the New York Times reports.
The district attorney who prosecuted Anderson has now called for her to be pardoned, and it appears her case was actually related to a defective ignition switch that caused the vehicle to veer unexpectedly as steering lost power.