Judge grants class action status in GM faulty transmission lawsuit

·3 min read

A judge has granted class action certification to a lawsuit involving 39 plaintiffs across 26 states — including Michigan — that accuses General Motors of knowingly selling cars with faulty transmissions.

On Monday, David Lawson, U.S. District judge for the Eastern District of Michigan, granted class certification in the case of Speerly v. GM, which represents the owners of various GM vehicles who have one of two models of eight-speed automatic transmissions — the GM 8L90 or 8L45 — made between 2015 and March 1, 2019.

The transmissions lurch and shutter when driving, creating a safety hazard, the lawsuit said.

The Renaissance Center, headquarters of General Motors, on the Detroit River in downtown Detroit.
The Renaissance Center, headquarters of General Motors, on the Detroit River in downtown Detroit.

“General Motors knowingly sold over 800,000 eight-speed transmission vehicles, which they knew to be defective for years, and yet made the business decision not to tell its customers before purchase," said Ted Leopold, partner at Cohen Milstein and court-appointed lead counsel for the class action case. "Dealers were directed to tell the customers that harsh shifts were ‘normal' or ‘characteristic.’ Such decision making is both highly irresponsible and emblematic of what GM believes it can get away with."

GM spokeswoman Maria Raynal said, "We respectfully decline comment, as is generally our practice with ongoing litigation."

The plaintiffs said the automatic transmissions in their vehicles occasionally will “slip, buck, kick, jerk and harshly engage," according to Monday's court order from the judge. The plaintiffs said the transmission "causes the vehicle to perform erratically, such as with sudden or delayed acceleration; the vehicles may be unsafe to drive."

Some drivers reported the gear shifting so violently that it felt as if they were hit by another car, Leopold said in a statement. The attorney for the plaintiffs also said internal company documents show that GM had determined the “startling effect” of the harsh shifts can create a safety issue. The vehicles also have a second transmission defect that causes them to “shudder” at highway speeds, the lawsuit said.

The court order listed the following vehicles with the alleged faulty transmissions:

  • 2015 through 2019 model year Chevrolet Silverado

  • 2017-19 Chevrolet Colorado

  • 2015-19 Chevrolet Corvette

  • 2016-19 Chevrolet Camaro

  • 2015-19 Cadillac Escalade and Escalade ESV

  • 2016-19 Cadillac ATS, ATS-V, CTS, CT6, and CTS-V

  • 2015-19 GMC Sierra, Yukon, Yukon XL, and Yukon Denali XL

  • 2017-19 GMC Canyon

The plaintiffs allege GM violated state consumer protection statutes by knowingly putting "defective" cars on the road. There have been no deaths or injuries, said Leopold. The plaintiffs are seeking either compensation for alleged overpayment for defective cars at the point of sale, or recovery of the cost of replacing defective components or their entire transmissions, he said.

The states certified include Michigan. A second lawsuit against GM for vehicles with 8L transmissions is also underway in the case of Battle v. General Motors. That case involves 8L vehicles made after March 1, 2019, through model year 2022, when GM replaced the automatic transmission fluid that caused the shudder problem.

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Contact Jamie L. LaReau: jlareau@freepress.com. Follow her on Twitter @jlareauan. Read more on General Motors and sign up for our autos newsletterBecome a subscriber.

This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Judge grants class action status in GM faulty transmission lawsuit