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Investigation Reveals that GM Encouraged Workers to Avoid Using Certain Words when Discussing Vehicle Problems

Posted on behalf of Goldberg Finnegan, LLC on May 21, 2014 in Product Liability

General Motors problems continue to grow. The company has been hit with dozens of lawsuits seeking billions in economic losses and investigations have revealed that the auto manufacturer schemed to keep information on the faulty ignition switches secretive.

According to U.S. regulators, the company discouraged the use of certain Judgment Words in written communications that discussed problems with their vehicles. Slides of words that employees should and should not use were presented during the company's 2008 Interior Technical Learning Symposium.

GM judgment words

GM internal memos

GM admits that they took these steps, but says they are now encouraging employees to use factual statements. Additionally, as part of their settlement with the NHTSA, General Motors Co. will meet with officials to review their compliance with safety issues for the next three years.

Regulators have also divulged that GM had information that should have allowed it to link the defective ignition switches to faulty airbags back in 2009. However, it has been noted that the company may have known about issues with the switch as far back as 2005.

General Motors Co. is facing 79 lawsuits from consumers who are demanding as much as $10 billion for the lost value of their vehicles as a result of the switch defects. In a U.S. bankruptcy court filing, GM said it has been sued in 20 additional class-action lawsuits related to the ignition switch defect. The lawsuits allege that GM promoted the vehicles as safe prior to filing for bankruptcy; some lawsuits also cite Delphi Corp., who manufactured the switches for GM, as a defendant.

A panel of judges still has to rule on whether or not GM may be held liable for claims that occurred before its 2009 bankruptcy. The decision will not be handed down until later this month when the judges will also decide if the lawsuits should be combined into one and what federal court should handle them.

In the past week General Motors Co. has agreed to pay a $35 million fine to settle an investigation by the NHTSA and have recalled millions more vehicles. To date, the company has recalled approximately 13.8 million vehicles for a number of safety issues that need to be repaired.

Currently, GM has not fired anyone over the ignition-switch recall matter although two engineers involved in the design of the switch were placed on paid leave. GM has stated that they will be taking appropriate actions once the company's internal investigation is completed in mid-June.

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