The Madison County Record Apr. 23, 2014, 6:54am

Gori Julian law firm of Edwardsville has enlisted in an army of attorneys suing General Motors for selling cars with defective ignition switches.

On April 15, at U.S. district court in East St. Louis, Todd Mathews of Gori Julian filed the 45th federal suit since GM began recalling vehicles earlier this year.

The number of federal suits had swelled to 54 by April 18, and the number of plaintiff lawyers had reached several hundred.

Dockets show an average of about seven plaintiff lawyers per suit, and briefs show names of lawyers not on the docket.

All the suits claim economic losses rather than physical injury or wrongful death.

Mathews represents Rex Roach of Marion, owner of a 2008 Chevrolet Malibu LS, who proposes a national class action for owners of six GM models.

Mathews wrote that as an alternative, Roach would seek a class action for Illinois only.

“Plaintiff’s vehicle contains a dangerous defect that allows the key to inadvertently turn to the ‘off’ or ‘acc’ position during normal driving,” he wrote.

“Had defendants disclosed the ignition switch defect, plaintiff would not have purchased his 2008 Chevy Malibu LS.”

His class definition, however, doesn’t mention any Malibu models.

It covers the Saturn Ion from 2003 to 2007, the Chevy Cobalt from 2005 to 2010, the Pontiac G5 from 2007 to 2010, the Chevy HHR from 2006 to 2011, the Pontiac Solstice from 2006 to 2010, and the Saturn Sky from 2007 to 2010.

Mathews wrote that GM’s recall does not compensate drivers for money they spent to address the defect or for their time and inconvenience in replacing switches.

“Furthermore, the recall does not call for consumers to stop driving the vehicles until the ignition switch is replaced, leaving consumers operating vehicles that GM knows are unsafe,” he wrote.

“Finally, GM has already faced problems in providing rental cars to consumers while the ignition switch is being replaced, and it is unlikely that GM will be able to provide a rental car to drivers of the more than two million vehicles that have been recalled.

Plaintiffs in other courts have unsuccessfully sought drastic remedies.

On April 17, District Judge Nelva Gonzalez Ramos of Corpus Christi, Texas, denied an injunction that would have required GM to advise owners to park their cars.

She deferred to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, which has not recommended a “park it now” alert.

At federal court in Santa Ana, Calif., plaintiffs moved for an injunction requiring wider publicity of GM’s offer to provide free loaner cars during switch repairs.

District Judge James Selna set a hearing, but later stayed all proceedings until the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multi District Litigation decides whether to consolidate all the suits.

The panel plans to consider the matter on May 29.

GM hopes to stop all the action by the simple stroke of obtaining an order from the New York bankruptcy court where it reorganized in 2009.

On April 21, GM asked bankruptcy judge Robert Gerber to declare that “New GM” acquired “Old GM” free of all liabilities that it did not expressly assume.

GM lawyers wrote, “It was an absolute condition of New GM’s purchase offer that New GM not take on all of old GM’s liabilities.”

“That was the bargain struck by New GM and Old GM, and approved by the court as being in the best interests of Old GM’s bankruptcy estate and the public interest,” GM’s lawyers wrote.

They wrote that the bankruptcy court reserved exclusive jurisdiction to ensure that no one would undermine the transaction or collaterally attack it.

“Plaintiffs may not rewrite, years later, the court approved sale to a good faith purchaser, which was affirmed on appeal, and which has been predicate ever since for literally millions of transactions between New GM and third parties,” they wrote.

“New GM’s refusal to assume a substantial portion of old GM’s liabilities was fundamental to the sale transaction and was widely disclosed by old GM to all interested parties.”

They wrote that New GM is not a successor to Old GM, but Mathews and other plaintiff lawyers dispute that.

Mathews wrote that New GM is subject to successor liability for the deceptive and unfair acts and omissions of old GM because it has continued the business of Old GM with full knowledge of the ignition switch defect.

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