General Motors has been in business since 1908. It has grown to be one of the largest auto manufacturers in the world. The company has gained its share of fans, but some are not as pleased with the business. GM has experienced many legal issues during its long history. Some dealt with the safety of the vehicles and others involved personal injury claims filed by those who suffered physical harm from defects in auto design or components. GM has been sued for billions over the past several decades. Here are the ten biggest General Motors lawsuits in company history.
10. General Motors fined by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Settlement amount: $35 Million
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration fined General Motors $35 Million for safety-related offenses. The federal agency took action on May 16, 2014, for GM’s untimely recall of vehicles in 2014. the automaker was found in violation of safety standards by failing to report a safety defect in its Chevrolet Cobalt on time. All defects must be reported to the federal government. The defect involved airbags that failed to deploy in the Cobalt and other General Motors vehicles. General Motors got fined $35 million. The company was required to change its safety-related issues reviews in its US manufacturing plants.GM received orders to improve its accounting for consequences of any potential defects related to safety. The agency added more civil penalties for GM’s failure to respond to the demands made by the NHTSA’s document demands while conducting its investigation. The agency informed GM that they would continue to monitor the company for further violations. If any more come to light, the penalty would increase from $35 million to $300 million to help them firmly understand that repeating the behaviors will not be tolerated. GM agreed to pay the 435 million which set a record for the highest penalty in this category.
9. Pyrka et. al. v. General Motors Corporation et al Settlement amount: $37,500,000
Violation Tracker reports that a lawsuit was filed against General Motors for employment-related offenses. The primary offense was a benefit plan administration violation. The case filed in 2008 was private civil litigation in the Eastern District of Michigan federal court. Complaints filed in March 2005, alleged GM committed violations of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act involving the Savings Plans and Hourly Plans. Plaintiffs in the class-action lawsuit claimed that GM representatives conveyed inaccurate information and made material misrepresentations to participants in the plan. GM was found in violation and held liable for the primary offense as well as for the second offense which was an ERISA pension violation. General Motors was ordered to pay the penalty of $37,500,000. General Motors fought the lawsuit for several years before finally being forced to agree on the settlement amount.
8. GM sued in Oil Guzzling Engine Deal in Berman et al v. General Motors LLC Settlement amount: $45,700,000
General Motors was sued for a safety-related offense, specifically product safety violation. A private civil litigation lawsuit was filed against General Motors in the Southern District of Florida’s federal court. The plaintiffs alleged that General Motors manufactured and sold vehicles to consumers. They did so with the knowledge they were defective. The defective vehicles were the Chevrolet Equinox and GMC Terrain vehicles from 2010 through 2013. the 2.4-liter Ecotec Engines had defects in the manufacturing that interfered with oil consumption causing them to use oil at an unacceptably high rate. Upon inspection, investigators discovered that faulty piston rings were the primary cause of the high oil consumption. Failure to keep adequate oil supplies in the vehicles could result in engine damages or even failure. Although GM offered Special Coverage Adjustments for some of the vehicles, along with warranty extensions, owners were required to bring their vehicles into the dealership for diagnostics. Many of the owners paid for these repairs before GM offered the service to make the necessary piston repairs. Owners who paid out of their own pockets sued General Motors for the amount of the expense. The courts found that General Motors was liable for the costs incurred by the vehicle owners. In November of 2019, General Motors was found responsible for the costs. The court ordered them to pay a settlement amount of 45,700,000. General Motors agreed to the amount to settle the class-action lawsuit.
7. General Motors LLC Ignition Switch Litigation Settlement amount: $154.5 Million
A private civil class action lawsuit was filed against General Motors in the federal Southern District of New York Court in 2020. Here is yet another case filed against General Motors for safety-related offenses, specifically an established product safety violation for the defective ignition released in over a million General Motors vehicles, knowingly defective. They still sold them to the public. The court awarded the plaintiffs a total of $154,5 million. General Motors agreed to pay the plaintiffs $120 million with an additional $34.5 million in the costs for legal fees. This was multi-district litigation and one of many filed for the same defect.
6. Six-Year ignition suit lawsuit against General Motors Settlement amount $120 million
Car and Driver reports about another ignition switch defect lawsuit against General motors. Lawyers for the plaintiffs filed a class-action lawsuit that GM fought for six years. The attorneys for the plaintiffs alleged that vehicle owners suffered a loss of value. It was due to the faulty ignition switch in the vehicles they purchased. This was one of many lawsuits filed for the same reason. GM recalled over 2.6 million vehicles because of deadly defects in ignition switches, and they paid millions in separate settlements for personal injuries sustained by vehicle owners. The case seeking to recoup economic loss resulted in a US District Court in New York hear the case. GM agreed to settle the case for $120 million to make restitution for the lost value.
5. New York State Teachers Retirement System v General Motors Company Settlement amount: $300 million
Attorneys filed a lawsuit in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan led by Salvatore J. Graziano, Gerald H. Silk, James A. Harrod, Adam H. Wierzbowski, and Rebecca E. Boon. This action came in a securities class action suit against General Motors Company for allegations of misrepresentations about the reliability, safety, and quality of the cars sold. The defendants (GM) told consumers that the cars they acquired were tested before being offered to consumers. The deadline for filing a settlement claim was April 27, 2016. GM recalled 779,000 vehicles. The list included the Chevrolet Cobalts sold to the company and a Pontiac G5 due to ignition switch defects. Affected cars shut off and disabled critical safety features because of the defect. GM knew of the problem. They later disclosed that 22 crashes occurred where airbags failed to deploy, causing six deaths. By the end of the investigation, more than 1.6 million GM cars got recalled. General Motors admitted to underreporting the number of accidents and deaths from defective components in the vehicles they sold. General Motors’ stock dropped because of the recalls with a significant decline in share prices. The New York State Teacher’s Retirement System participants claimed to be affected by GM’s deceptive reports. GM was ordered to pay a settlement of $300 Million which concluded on May 19, 2016.
4. General Motors sued in 2014 personal injury class-action lawsuit Settlement amount: $625 million
In 2014, a class-action lawsuit was filed against General Motors for 275 injuries and 124 deaths due to faulty equipment on vehicles sold to the public. General Motors took legal action early and hired a defense attorney. They attempted to settle with the victims to avoid litigation. A total of 4,343 death and injury claims emerged in the case. Of the lawsuits, just 399 were eligible for compensation. Those suing for wrongful death were offered $1 million and up. Each of the 124 settled. Others filed for injury claims, of those, 18 ruled catastrophic injuries requiring outpatient treatment or hospitalization. A total of257 claims fit into the category. 221 plaintiffs agreed to settle. The case was related to the GM ignition switch. All parties who settled waived their right to file the lawsuit. The $625 million fund compensated victims. Although this was a large settlement, it was not the largest one that GM paid to settle injury and loss claims.
3. GM Asbestos Trust Settlement Settlement amount: $636 Million
General Motors purchased parts made of asbestos from third-party companies. It used the material in its components in the 1930s, adding appliances to its product lines such as Heat boilers with asbestos lining. Asbestos was found in many of the brake linings and clutch linings. The asbestos helped lessen friction while protecting the metal parts from high temperatures. General Motors used asbestos in many parts throughout the years, exposing thousands of workers and consumers to potentially dangerous materials. Many people developed illnesses related to the asbestos they came in contact with from GM parts. They sued GM for restitution for the personal injuries sustained from contact with asbestos. Multiple lawsuits stacked up against GM for asbestos-related damages. They created the need for General Motors to develop a trust fund. The trust fund covered the suits that the courts found them liable for damages. The Trust became established in 2009 for $636 Million. It was the asbestos litigation that served as the final straw. It forced GM into bankruptcy that year. The trust was not opened until the last part of April in 2012. Payments commenced in 2012 through 2017, with $31.9 million paid out to claimants numbering over 4,000.
2. GM Fined for faulty ignition switches Settlement amount: $900 million
The Washington Post reports that General Motors was aware of a defect in the ignition switch of vehicles they sold to the public. The defective component had been linked to 174 deaths. A criminal investigation into the case revealed evidence that General Motors was at fault and responsible for the deaths and injuries sustained to the vehicle defects. An executive at General Motors admitted that the automaker was remiss. They were sloppy in the way they handled the problem. She further and that it was their fault for not doing their jobs. General Motors made apologies to the victims. The court ordered them to pay $900 million in compensation, which most agreed, was a slap on the wrist compared to some of its other settlements.
1. Anderson v General Motors Settlement amount: $4.9 billion
PSBL Law reports that General Motors was sued in a landmark case for personal injury. Patrica Anderson, her kids, and a friend were on their way home from a Christmas Eve church event in 1993. A drunk driver hit the car from behind, causing the gas tank of the 1979 Chevrolet Malibu to explode. The two women escaped the fire. The kids became trapped inside the rear part of the vehicle. Anderson’s daughter Alisha Parker was seriously burned, losing the fingers on one hand, and in need of over seventy surgical procedures. All the children received burns and required hospitalization, but Alisha was left permanently disabled and disfigured. A jury heard the arguments, deliberated, then awarded the victims of the crash a settlement amount requiring GM to pay $107 million for disfigurement, pain, and suffering, adding $4.9 billion to the tab for releasing vehicles with potentially fatal defects in the gas tank design. The plaintiff offered to use much of the money to help prevent others from suffering the same fate, pleading with General Motors to fix the problem on the vehicles. She requested them to organize a recall of the faulty cars. Anderson settled for setting up a trust for burn victims. The automaker acknowledged responsibility for deceptive practices and delays in making remedies.