At least two Long Islanders, a man from Bellmore and another from New Hyde Park, have filed federal lawsuits against General Motors Co. seeking monetary damages for defective ignition switches in their GM cars.
The suits, among 85 pending nationwide, hold GM responsible for allegedly selling dangerous vehicles and for taking years to recognize or fix serious safety issues related to the ignition switches. Unspecified damages are being sought.
The switches in question can turn off without warning, sometimes involving heavy items on a key ring or a bump of the knee, stalling the engine and deactivating power steering, brakes and air bags. GM says it has recalled since February a total of 17.3 million vehicles related to the defect.
The Bellmore man, William Ross, 65, who says he is a disabled Vietnam War veteran, said in a suit filed June 10 in federal court in Central Islip that he had two accidents when the ignition switch of his 2005 Chevrolet Cobalt suddenly turned off while he was driving.
In the first and more serious incident, on Hempstead Turnpike in Levittown on June 23, 2012, Ross lost control of the car, crashing into a divider lined with rubber pylons, the suit claims. Court papers say the crash caused $6,297 in damage to the car and permanent "scarring and disfiguring" of Ross' right arm, along with ongoing pain.
The other accident, according to the suit, occurred on March 30, 2014, on a local street whose name Ross can't recall. Again, he hit a divider, the suit says.
Ross said he decided to sue earlier this year after being told by his dealer that his car was not involved in the recall. A week later, he said, he got a notice from GM that it was. "It wasn't because of the money," he said, "it's because they [the dealership] lied to my face."
He said he has since junked the car.
Dentist Steven Groman of New Hyde Park said in his suit, filed April 8 in federal court in Manhattan, that his 2008 Chevrolet HHR stalled four times on four unspecified dates -- the first two times on the Long Island Expressway. Fearful of further incidents, he began commuting to his Manhattan office on the LIE's service road, where, on a third and fourth occasion, the ignition moved from "on" to "off," stalling the car, the suit says. There were no accidents and no injuries alleged in the court papers.
Groman's court papers say dealership service technicians were unable to identify the problem after each of the first three incidents and deemed the vehicle safe to drive. After the fourth incident, the papers say, technicians diagnosed a faulty connector -- not the ignition switch. Groman sold the vehicle in 2011.
His attorney, Alexander H. Schmidt of Manhattan, said Groman declined to comment.
Both men's suits seek class-action status so that they would represent other owners of cars with the ignition defect.
All 85 suits were bundled earlier this month for pretrial proceedings by the federal Judicial Panel on Multi-District Litigation, to be overseen by U.S. District Court Judge Jesse M. Furman in Manhattan.
A 315-page investigative report into the recall, done for GM and released June 5, found that company officials were aware of the defect for a decade before the recall.