GM facing legal battle for ignition problems

Firm wants shieldedfrom liability claims


DETROIT — General Motors Co. and a battalion of trial lawyers are preparing for a court fight over whether GM is liable for the sins of its corporate past.

The company is asking a U.S. bankruptcy court to shield it from legal claims for actions that took place before the company’s 2009 bankruptcy.

Lawyers who are suing GM say it shouldn’t get the usual benefits of bankruptcy protection because it concealed a deadly ignition-switch problem when the court was making bankruptcy decisions.

They also say the company’s motion is part of a broader strategy to force settlements in dozens of lawsuits alleging the ignition switches caused deaths and injuries.

Late Monday, GM filed a motion in New York asking the court to bar claims that GM small cars lost value because of the ignition switch problem, which has led to the recall of 2.6 million older small cars worldwide.

The company has admitted knowing about the problem for more than a decade, yet it waited until February to start recalling the cars to replace the defective switches.

General Motors said on Tuesday that it was adding 35 product safety investigators as part of a larger restructuring of its engineering operations related to the massive recall.

GM said the new investigators will more than double the size of its current team, to 55. The company also will divide its global engineering operations and place a greater emphasis on whole vehicles, and their safety, instead of on individual parts.

General Motors Co. shares rose 25 cents to $34.23 Tuesday. Its shares have fallen almost 17 percent so far this year.