O.C. District Attorney Sues GM, Claims Automaker Deceives Consumers

Tony Rackauckas claims the company conceals safety issues to avoid paying for recalls or replacing defective parts.

Patch file graphic.
Patch file graphic.

Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas sued General Motors, alleging the carmaker deceived consumers by concealing safety issues to avoid paying for recalls or replacing defective parts, officials said today as GM announced a recall of about 7.6 million vehicles.

The Orange County lawsuit, filed Friday, alleges GM officials knew of problems with power steering, air bags and brakes, but did not disclose them.

The District Attorney further alleges GM coached employees to not use the terms "defect," "stall," or any other language that would indicate problems with the company's vehicles.

GM recalled 17 million vehicles in 33 actions during the first five months of 2014, according to the District Attorney's Office.

Today, GM announced six new safety recalls affecting about 7.6 million vehicles made since 1997. Efforts to reach GM officials for comment on Rackauckas' lawsuit were not immediately successful.

GM acknowledged seven crashes, eight injuries and three fatalities involving vehicles being recalled. The deadly crashes involved sedans under the recall for inadvertent ignition key rotation, but GM said there was no "conclusive evidence" the defect caused accidents.

GM officials pledged to institute 90 recommendations in a report by former U.S. Attorney Anton Valukas to GM's board of directors. It could cost GM up to $1.2 billion for recall-related repairs in the second-quarter of this year.

"This case is about having safe cars on the road, because cars carry our most precious cargo," Rackauckas said.

Rackauckas filed a similar lawsuit against Toyota Motor Sales USA in Orange County Superior Court in March 2010, regarding issues with runaway vehicles. Toyota agreed in April 2012 to pay $16 million to settle the Orange County lawsuit.

In July last year, a Santa Ana-based federal judge signed off on a $1.6 billion settlement of a class-action lawsuit against Toyota over sudden- acceleration issues.

--City News Service


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