The following is a press release from the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office:
BOSTON – Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey has secured more than $2 million in a settlement with auto manufacturer General Motors Company (GM) over allegations the company concealed safety issues related to ignition-switch-related defects in its vehicles.
The funds are part of a $120 million multistate settlement by the attorneys general of 49 states and the District of Columbia that resolves a multistate investigation into GM’s failure to timely disclose known safety defects in several models of their vehicles.
“Our investigation revealed that GM concealed auto safety defects that put people’s lives at risk,” said AG Healey. “We are pleased to have reached a national settlement to resolve these issues and protect the public.”
In 2014, GM issued seven vehicle recalls in response to unintended key-rotation-related and/or ignition-switch-related issues, which have affected more than nine million vehicles in the U.S. The recalls involved a defective ignition switch which, under certain conditions, could move out of the “Run” position to the “Accessory” or “Off” position.
If this occurs, the driver experiences a loss of electrical systems, including power steering and power brakes. If a collision occurs while the ignition switch is in the “Accessory” or “Off” position, the vehicle’s safety airbags may also fail to deploy, increasing the risk of serious injury or death in certain types of crashes.
The states allege that certain GM employees knew as early as 2004 that the ignition switch posed a safety defect because it could prevent airbags from inflating. However, despite this knowledge, GM personnel decided it was not a safety concern and delayed making recalls. GM continued to market the reliability and safety of its motor vehicles that were equipped with this defective ignition switch.
AG Healey’s Office alleges that these actions were unfair and deceptive and that GM violated state consumer protection laws.
Under a consent judgment filed in Suffolk Superior Court and subject to approval and entry by the court, GM is prohibited from representing that a motor vehicle is “safe” unless they have complied with the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety standards applicable to the motor vehicle at issue.
GM is also prohibited from certifying pre-owned vehicles that GM advertises are safe, have been repaired for safety issues, or have been subject to rigorous inspection, unless the vehicles are not subject to any open recalls relating to safety or have been repaired pursuant to such a recall.
The settlement requires GM to instruct its dealers that all applicable recall repairs must be completed before any GM motor vehicle that is included in a recall and sold in the U.S. is eligible for certification.
If there is a recall on any certified pre-owned vehicle sold in the U.S., the required repair must be completed before the vehicle is delivered to a customer.
GM also agreed to pay the participating attorneys general a total of $120 million, of which Massachusetts will receive a total of $ $2,122,942.79. Half of the settlement money will go to the General Fund and half to the AG’s Local Consumer Aid Fund, which funds the office’s Local Consumer Programs and Face-to-Face Mediation programs.
To date, GM has paid out hundreds of millions in consumer restitution through various class action settlements and through the Feinberg Fund, set up to provide payments to individuals injured or families of those killed as a result of the defect.
In Massachusetts, Assistant Attorneys General Samantha Shusterman and Lisa Dyen, of AG Healey’s Consumer Protection Division, handled this matter.
The multi-state was led by Ohio, South Carolina, Connecticut, Florida, Maryland, Michigan, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Texas and also includes Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Delaware, District of Columbia, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming.