June 30, 2014 at 5:04 pm

Calif. county sues GM over delayed ignition switch recall

The Orange County District Attorney in California said Monday he filed suit against General Motors Co. “for endangering motorists and the public by intentionally concealing serious safety defects in GM vehicles to avoid the cost of a recall or replacing defective parts.”

The complaint, filed Friday, is the first suit brought by a government agency over GM’s delayed recall of 2.6 million older cars linked to 13 deaths and 54 crashes. It states that GM endangered the public through deception regarding vehicle safety and reliability, and gained advantage over its competitors by engaging in unfair business practices. The suit seeks restitution for consumers, civil penalties and injunctive relief for injuries and for the diminished value of recalled vehicles.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office in New York aided by a federal grand jury, a dozen state attorneys general, Congress and the Securities and Exchange Commission are all investigating GM’s conduct. The automaker announced a victims compensation fund on Monday.

“Each driver of the road should be able to expect that the other cars on the road are safe and will not cause a harmful, preventable accident,” said Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas.

GM spokesman Jim Cain said the automaker will respond to the lawsuit. He said the automaker is focused on repairing cars and getting the victims compensation fund running.

The suit charges GM with deceptive practices. “GM is accused of failing to disclose and/or concealing known defects in millions of GM vehicles. The safety defects include power steering, air bag and brake-related problems. By knowingly hiding the existence of defects and marketing their vehicles as safe and reliable, the OCDA is charging that GM enticed consumers under false pretenses to purchase GM vehicles,” the office said. “

The complaint says GM “failed to disclose defects to consumers prior to lease or purchase, victims have been injured and killed, owners and lessees of GM vehicles have suffered property damage, economic damage, and many are unable to sell or trade their cars.”

It also charges GM with engaging in “fraudulent, unfair and unlawful business practices, which put an emphasis on profits over safety. To avoid the attention of regulators and cost of a recall, GM is accused of training its personnel to never use the words ‘defect,’ ‘stall’ or other words suggesting that any GM-branded vehicles are defective,” Rackauckas said.

GM faces more than 80 civil suits filed by private attorneys on behalf of owners over the same issues.