Dem Senators: GM should be denied protection from recall lawsuits

A pair of Democratic senators called Wednesday for a bankruptcy court to reject a General Motors motion to throw out lawsuits over its recalled vehicles that were filed before its 2009 restructuring.

GM is seeking protection from lawsuits filed between 2004 and 2010. 

Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and Ed Markey (D-Mass.) said the company is trying to take advantage of the bankruptcy system to avoid responsibility for its faulty car parts.   

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"GM’s recent actions in litigation demonstrate clearly its intent to use the bankruptcy process to prevent many victims and their families from obtaining relief for the harms they have suffered," Blumenthal said in a statement.

"Whatever GM’s lawyers may argue, the judges in these cases should deny GM this shield," Blumenthal continued. "Regardless of these legal battles, the company should simply do right by these victims and establish a compensation fund that will make them whole. Several of my colleagues and I have called on the Department of Justice to insist that the company establish a compensation fund as part of any settlement of a criminal investigation.”

Markey joined in the criticism of GM's legal maneuvering.

"This latest disclosure shows that GM’s culture appears to have been driven by costs over consumer safety, which continues today by refusing to tell drivers to stop operating its defective vehicles until they're fixed," he said in a statement. "This so-called new GM has the same old values of profits over people that has endangered lives and caused grief to American families.”

GM is facing litigation for accidents that stretch as far back as 2005 that have been linked to its recall of 1.6 million of its older models that have been found to have a dangerous ignition switch flaw.

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

The company said in a statement that was provided to The Hill that the legal filing was not an attempt to avoid responsiblity for its recalled cars. 

"GM has both civic and legal obligations in regard to this matter," GM spokesman Greg 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."

-This story was originally posted at 1:37 p.m. and it was updated with new information at 2:17 p.m.