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Texas declines to force GM to issue park-it order for recalled cars

Under current law are free to ignore recall notices if they choose, and would still have been free to continue driving.
Diana Duel

Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos has refused to issue a “park it” order that would have required General Motors to tell owners of over 2 million recalled cars to stop driving them immediately. Instead, she deferred the decision to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which she stated has a better grasp of the situation and understanding of the national safety issues involved. She also told lawyers for plaintiffs Charles and Grace Silvas that they could appeal to the NHTSA directly.

Texas attorney Bob Hilliard, (who also represents several families of people who have either been injured or killed because of the defect) filed the petition on behalf of the Silvas in US District Court in Corpus Christi, on April 4 because they believe “the cars pose a significant safety threat. “ The Silvas claim that their 2006 Chevy Cobalt began experiencing sudden loss of power in 2010, even after their ignition switch was replaced. Theirs was among the mass recall of General Motors vehicles embroiled in the scandal involving ignition switches that can shift out of the “running position,” causing engines to shut off unexpectedly, knocking out power-assisted steering abilities, as well as brakes and airbag deployment. To date, 13 crash fatalities have been tied to the problem.

However, in her 6-page ruling, Ramos wrotethat the “park it order conflicts with the existing notices issued in connection with the recall arising from the defective ignition switches. The court is of the opinion that NHTSA is far better equipped than this court to address the broad and complex issues of automotive safety and the regulation of automotive companies in connection with a nationwide recall.”

She went on to state that “No judge has ever sought to compel an automaker to urge its owners to stop driving. Members of the public would still have been free to continue driving. It’s not clear how a request could have been enforced, since millions of owners would have to comply — and under current law are free to ignore recall notices if they choose.”

Although the NHTSA has considered a “park it” order, they have refrained from issuing it as yet. In the meantime, GM CEO Mary Barra has faced serious grilling by the Senate as to why her company failed to issue recalls before this past February when it was well aware of the defects for more than 10 years.General Motors is currently facing more than 40 lawsuits nationwide in connection with the recall.

It should also be noted that a class action suit has been filed in Detroit by Ohio-based Bedford Auto Wholesalers Inc. (which owns 36 GM automobiles) stating that the automaker “should be required to pay owners for the loss in value of recalled vehicles, while other lawyers are looking to sue Auburn Hills-based airbag maker Continental Automotive Systems US Inc., after claiming that (it appears) Continental was “also aware of the ignition switch defect in GM cars as early as 2005, when GM met with Continental in the investigation of a crash of a 2005 Chevrolet Cobalt,” according to attorney Adam Levitt, who is representing additional car owners. “Continental did nothing to redesign its air bags so that they would deploy even if the car’s power went out, not did it warn NHTSA or the public,” he stated.