GM seeking protection from recall lawsuits

General Motors has asked a bankruptcy judge to declare it free of liability for accidents that occured before the company received a $50 billion federal bailout, The Hill has confirmed.

GM is facing litigation for accidents involving recalled vehicles made between 2004 and 2010 that have been found to have a dangerous ignition switch flaw.

But the company is asking a bankruptcy judge in San Francisco to declare it cannot be sued for accidents that happened before GM's restructuring in 2009.

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GM spokesman Greg Martin said in a statement to The Hill that the company's legal maneuver was not an attempt to avoid responsiblity for its recalled cars. 

"GM has both civic and legal obligations in regard to this matter," Martin said in an e-mail. "It is why we have retained Kenneth Feinberg to help us explore our options as we move through this recall process."

The GM bankruptcy court filing was first reported on Tuesday by the Detroit Free-Press.

The cars that have been recalled are mostly older models that the company no longer makes like the Chevrolet Cobalt and the Saturn Ion. The cars were found to abruptly shut off or have their airbags disabled if drivers had a heavy object on their keychains.

GM has been accused of purposely delaying recalling the vehicles to avoid paying for repairs, but the company has told lawmakers that it did not make the link between the problems and the ignition switch parts until this year.

The company's CEO, Mary Barra, has told lawmakers that she is "deeply sorry" for the failure to issue the recall sooner and has promised to change the company's culture with regard to the safety of its automobiles.

Barra, who is in her first year at the helm of GM, was sharply criticized during a recent pair of contentious congressional hearings for her attempts to separate herself from decisions that were made at the company before she took offer. Lawmakers pointed out that Barra was a high-ranking employee at GM before she became CEO and she has worked for the company for 33 years.

The recalled GM parts have been linked to accidents that have caused 13 deaths.

-This story was first posted at 12:16 p.m. and it was updated with new information at 2:10 p.m.

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