GM ignition recall-suit consolidation sought before Toyota judge in Calif.

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LOS ANGELES (Bloomberg) -- General Motors Co.’s growing number of lawsuits over the recalls of now 2.59 million small cars for faulty ignition switches should be consolidated before the same judge overseeing Toyota Motor Corp. acceleration cases, a lawyer for vehicle owners said.

U.S. District Judge James Selna in Santa Ana, Calif., is uniquely experienced and positioned to manage the GM case, according a request to consolidate the lawsuits filed with the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation in Washington.

“The scope of the expanding recall and number of cars and consumers involved will result a high volume of lawsuits filed in multiple jurisdictions warranting coordinated or consolidated proceeding,” Dana Taschner, a lawyer for one of the plaintiffs, said in the March 31 filing.

The recall crisis is GM’s biggest since emerging from bankruptcy in 2009. On March 31, the automaker more than doubled its recall-related charges to $750 million after saying faulty power steering in 1.5 million other vehicles needs to be fixed.

This year, GM has recalled almost 7 million vehicles worldwide, denting a reputation for quality that the automaker had only recently repaired after emerging from a government-sponsored reorganization.

The recalls involve a defect that can cause the ignition switch to shut off, which in turn can cause the engine to stall and the car’s airbags to be deactivated. At least 13 deaths and 35 accidents have been linked to the defect.

Barra, Congress

GM CEO Mary Barra told a U.S. House committee on Tuesday that the automaker still doesn’t have all the answers that might explain why it waited a dozen years to fix the flaw.

GM spokesman Greg Martin declined to comment on the request to consolidate the cases.

Seattle-based law firm Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro LLP, which filed a class-action complaint last month in Santa Ana, said it’s seeking to recover about $250 for every owner in the U.S., or more than $350 million in total, plus punitive damages for the automaker’s alleged failure to disclose critical safety information.

Selna last year approved a Toyota settlement valued by plaintiff lawyers at as much as $1.63 billion. Toyota owners in the U.S. claimed recalls of more than 10 million vehicles worldwide related to sudden, unintended acceleration caused their cars to lose value. The judge still oversees personal injury cases that Toyota is trying to settle out of court.

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