Plaintiffs in GM lawsuit want docs turned over to Congress

Plaintiffs in a class action lawsuit that has been filed against General Motors for its failure to recall cars that had a dangerous safety defect until this year are asking a California judge to force the company to give their lawyers all the documents it has turned over to Congress.

The request is contained in a motion for “expedited discovery” that was filed in the U.S. District Court of Northern California by the plaintiffs in the case of Maciel et al v. General Motors, LLC.

The lawsuit was filed after GM announced in February that it was recalling 1.6 million cars that were older as 2004 that have been found to abruptly shut off or have their airbags disabled if their ignition switches fail.

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The company has been accused of purposely delaying issuing the recall to avoid paying for repairs. Lawmakers have required them to turn over ten years worth of documents about its handling of complaints about the ignitions.

The California lawsuit was filed by drivers who live in nine states, according to the law firm that is representing the group who is suing GM. The lawsuit has 13 named plaintiffs.

The GM plaintiffs aid in a filing to the California court that their lawyers should get to take a look at the information as well.

“Before filing the Class Action Complaint (Dkt. No. 1) and without the benefit of any formal discovery – plaintiffs uncovered a great deal of misconduct committed by Defendant General Motors, LLC (“GM”),” the plaintiffs said in their motion for expedited discovery.

“For example, plaintiffs discovered that GM officials have knowingly produced a defective ignition switch system for at least a decade and installed them in millions of cars that it then sold to an unsuspecting public,” the motion continued. “Plaintiffs also discovered that GM officials took affirmative steps to conceal these defects from the public since at least as early as 2006.”

GM CEO Mary Barra declined to answer specific questions about decisions that were made at the auto company before she took over as CEO at the beginning of this year during a pair of contentious hearings last week.

Barra, who is the first female chief of GM, said she was “deeply sorry” for the company’s failure to issue the recall earlier and said she was conducting an internal investigation.

The lawyers for the plaintiffs against GM said in their motion to the California they were not requesting anything GM did not already have to provide to lawmakers and regulators.

“Plaintiffs are limiting their requests for expedited discovery to documents, and most of the documents plaintiffs seek are either: (1) currently being gathered and reviewed pursuant to GM’s internal investigation; or (2) have already been produced to Congress or the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (“NHTSA”),” the plaintiffs’ motion said.

“GM also continues to review and produce documents to Congress and NHTSA on a rolling basis, and simultaneous, rolling production of these documents to plaintiffs does not impose any additional burden to GM,” the motion continued. “Given the minimal burden associated with this discovery and Plaintiffs’ need for information as to the safety profiles of Defective Vehicles still in circulation, the need for this discovery on an expedited basis outweighs any purported prejudice GM may claim.”

The California lawsuit is one of several that have been filed in recent weeks since GM announced its recall.

The recall most affected models of cars that GM no longer makes, like the Chevrolet Cobalt and Saturn Ion, that were made between 2004 and 2010.

The company has subsequently recalled another 1.3 million cars from the same period that had a faulty power steering mechanism.