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Automaker recalls 6 vehicle models in Wisconsin

Manufacturers, including automakers, have a responsibility to their consumers to ensure that their products are safe and that normal use will not cause injury or death. General Motors, however, is finding itself in hot water again after being forced to recall 1.6 million cars with a possible link to 13 deaths. Wisconsin residents should keep an eye on how the recall and any subsequent litigation pans out.

According to reports, General Motors was aware of the issues -- most notably sudden engine shutdowns -- for the past 11 years but did not investigate the issue. An analysis of National Highway Traffic Safety Administration consumer complaints conducted by the New York Times showed that an average of two complaints a month were reported since February of 2003 regarding the shutdowns. Now, the auto manufacturer is recalling six models, citing defective ignition switches that may cause the power system and engine to shut off unexpectedly and the air bags to be disabled.

The complaints talk about cars stalling or shutting off in various dangerous situations, including in busy traffic, while the car is traveling at high speeds and while the vehicle is going over train tracks. One of the recalled models, the Chevrolet Cobalt, was named in several of the complaints. A letter reportedly sent to those who put forth the complaints claimed that a review had been conducted to see if there was a "safety defect trend" but that there was "insufficient evidence" for a investigation.

A 2000 law passed by Congress requires car manufacturers to report any claims to the safety agency that appear to blame defects for any deaths or serious injuries. General Motors has apparently reported 1,581 injuries and 78 deaths, but it was unclear how many of those incidents involved the defective ignition switches. If it is found that General Motors knew about the defect and did not properly investigate, it is possible that the families of the 13 killed in relation to the defective switches could file wrongful death suits against the company.

Source: The New York Times, "Auto Regulators Dismissed Defect Tied to 13 Deaths" Hilary Stout, Danielle Ivory and Matthew L. Wald, Mar. 08, 2014

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