(USA TODAY) - General Motors knew not only that its ignition switches in 1.62 million now-recalled cars were faulty, it also knew the problem was made worse by the position of the switch where it is easily bumped, says a lawsuit filed by a coalition of law firms on Monday.
As a result, GM's replacement of the switches is an "insufficient" remedy, and the cars need an additional fix to shield the key or fob from being bumped by the driver, according to the suit filed in U.S. District Court in San Francisco.
"Since at least 2005, GM has known that simply replacing the ignition switches on the defective vehicles is not a solution for the potential for the key to inadvertently turn from the 'run' to the 'accessory/off' position in these vehicles," states the lawsuit.
"GM, in our view, is continuing to mislead customers" by standing by faulty ignition switches as the only cause the problem, said Adam Levitt, a director of one of the participating law firms, Grant & Eisenhofer, in a statement.
Sean Kane of Safety Research and Strategies, who says he is not officially part of the lawsuit, says he thinks the lawyers were "skillful about identifying where the holes are" in GM's defense. "The case is about ergonomics of where the ignition was placed, not just the switch itself."
Besides further embarrassment, for GM, having to take additional measures to shield ignition switches could add to the cost of the recall. Vehicles recalled for the switch issue include the 2005 to 2007 Chevrolet Cobalt and 2006 to 2007 HHR, 2006 to 2007 Pontiac Solstice and 2007 G5 and the 2003 to 2007 Saturn Ion and 2007 Sky.
The law firms say they have lined up 13 plaintiffs in California and six other states who bought or leased cars covered under GM's recall. Lawyers say they will seek status for the suit as a class action on behalf of all the owners.
Beyond the switch shield, the suit alleges that GM knew as early as 2001 that its key ignition system could shut off the engine without warning, but took no steps to fix it and sold the cars anyway. It also seeks compensation for the owners for what it says is a loss in value for their cars because of the recall.
Faulty ignition switches in the recalled GM vehicles are linked to 12 deaths and 31 crashes.
In addition to Grant & Eisenhofer, other litigation firms include Baron & Budd of Dallas and the Cooper Firm of Marietta, Ga., whose principal partner, Lance Cooper, was among the first lawyers to focus on the switch issue.
Other firms include Bartimus, Frickleton, Robertson & Goza; The DiCello Law Firm; Conley Griggs & Partin; Spilman Thomas & Battle; Bucci Bailey & Javins; and Siprut.