• Action 9: Some victims and families barred from suing GM over defect

    By: Jason Stoogenke


    Story highlights:

    • Victims upset they may not be able to sue GM over faulty ignition switch problem
    • "Old" GM may not have enough money to cover all lawsuits
    • "New" GM happy with judge's ruling

    Some victims and their families are finding out they can't sue General Motors for an ignition switch problem blamed for nearly 100 deaths.

    GM declared bankruptcy July 10, 2009, and, simply put, emerged as a new company -- the "New GM."

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    A bankruptcy judge recently ruled that if the victim's accident happened before July 10, 2009, they couldn’t sue the new GM for the old GM's alleged actions -- that the victim would have to sue the old GM.

    But national reports suggest the old GM probably doesn't have enough money for all the victims. One report said the victims and their families are seeking a combined $32 billion and that the old GM only has $9.25 billion in assets.

    Victim's family: "They're getting away with murder"

    Some families, like that of Christian Raniolo, who died in a 2007 crash, are furious with the ruling.

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    "GM is GM in my book, regardless if it happened before the bankruptcy or after the bankruptcy. General Motors is still General Motors," said Christian's brother, Sam Raniolo Jr. "They're getting away with murder."

    Christian was driving his 2006 Chevy Cobalt along Oak Grove Road in Kings Mountain. His family believes the ignition switch slipped, and that his car locked up, went off the road and hit a tree. Christian was 25 years old at the time.

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    "I miss my boy," said his father, Sam Raniolo Sr. "He would have came a long way in life."

    The family sued, but now, because of the date Christian died, it appears they can't sue the new GM, but would have to sue the old one.

    The tree Christian hit is gone, just a stump remains -- and a memorial -- but for his family, the pain goes on.

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    "I want to heal and GM ain't letting me heal," Sam Sr. told Channel 9.

    Christian's family is using a law firm used by many other plaintiffs and plans to appeal the judge's ruling so they can sue the new GM.

    GM "pleased" with ruling

    "We're obviously pleased because it was a positive ruling. But a few things to keep in mind: The ruling was consistent with existing bankruptcy law; even if the ruling had gone against GM, the plaintiffs still would have to prove their case, which will be difficult," GM told Action 9 in an email.

    RESOURCE: Judge's ruling on GM ignition switch problem

    The GM Ignition Compensation Claims Resolution Facility is the group keeping track of fatalities allegedly tied to GM's ignition switch issue. So far, it has counted 90 deaths.

    GM ultimately admitted the problem and recalled more than 2 million vehicles.

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    If your case happened before July 10, 2009, you may still be able to recover money two ways:

    • Sue the old GM (which may not have enough money to go around)
    • File a claim with the GM Ignition Compensation Claims Resolution Facility (except the deadline passed a few months ago. If you already did this, you can follow up on your claim here.)

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