Yesterday, General Motors denied the request of two US Senators asking the automaker to extend the deadline yet again for claimants to file for monetary compensation relating to the defective GM ignition switch.
Automotive News reports that Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) wrote GM CEO Mary Barra, citing a pending Department of Justice Criminal Investigation and ongoing federal court inquisitions into the automaker’s liability in the wake of the bankruptcy as factors which may cause claimants to delay. In light of these two things, the Senators are urging GM to give victims another extension to decide whether to file.
“Put simply, right now, injured parties do not know enough about their legal rights or facts to make an informed decision,” they wrote. “Indeed, they cannot have sufficient information until the DOJ concludes its criminal investigation and the bankruptcy court decides whether to lift the liability shield that G.M. now unjustifiably hides behind.”
While General Motors was only legally obligated to hold the door open for relief fund claimants for 90 days, the automaker has had at least some sort of legal shielding from fallout due to the terms of their bankruptcy and government bailout. But Senators Blumenthal and Markey feel that this “legal shield” was unjustly granted, seeing as the automaker knew “for at least a decade about the ignition switch defect,” yet failed to disclose it. They call the January 31st claim deadline “arbitrary.”
If a claimant does seek relief through GM’s compensation fund, the party forfeits their right to later legal action against the automaker. So far, the number of accepted fatality claims stands at 50, with 7 “catastrophic” injuries, and 68 minor injuries.