Wood River, IL (PRWEB) July 8, 2009
LakinChapman, LLC settled a multi-million dollar, nationwide class action lawsuit benefiting approximately 150,000 Saturn owners, with GM prior to it filing bankruptcy on June 1, 2009. Since filing for bankruptcy GM has been silent on its intent to honor the settlement.
On October 10, 2007, a metro-east St. Louis law firm, LakinChapman, LLC, filed a class action complaint against General Motorsin the U.S. Dist. Ct. Eastern Dist. Of California- 2:07-CV-02142 WBS-GGH alleging the premature failure of VTi transmissions in certain Saturn vehicles that often left the vehicles inoperable. The complaint alleged that the premature failure of the VTi transmission was the result of design and manufacturing defects of which GM was aware but failed to disclose to consumers. On April 14, 2009, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California granted final approval of a nationwide settlement in the class action lawsuit against GM.
The class consists of all U.S. residents who purchased a new or used 2002, 2003, 2004, or 2005 model-year Saturn VUE or 2003 or 2004 model-year Saturn ION equipped with a continuously variable VTi transmission. The settlement extended the VTi warranties by providing the following benefits: (1) reimbursement for out-of-pocket expenses (including towing and vehicle rental) relating to the previous repair, replacement, or inspection of VTi transmissions, (2) reimbursement for certain losses associated with a trade-in of a Class Vehicle with VTi transmission failure; and (3) reimbursement for out-of-pocket expenses (including towing and vehicle rental) relating to the future repair, replacement, or inspection of VTi transmissions. Reimbursable expenses included those incurred within 125,000 miles of the original retail sale or lease, and within certain time limitations. “This settlement offers more relief to class members, in terms of dollars per person, then any other consumer class action settlement that this firm knows of,” said Rob Schmieder, head of the complex litigation department at LakinChapman, LLC.
One Hurricane Katrina survivor who is also a Class Member said, “At the time I needed to pay to replace the VTi transmission in my 2004 Saturn Vue, I was just getting my head above water from the financial status I was in from Hurricane Katrina. Once I was told it would cost me over $ 4,500 to replace the transmission, I felt financially drained and emotionally spent. There were times I would just cry about the financial and emotional distress I was under due to money needed to replace the transmission. The settlement provides great financial relief, and I am ecstatic about the settlement.”
Another class member spoke of her problems with the VTi transmission, “I had to borrow money to replace a transmission on a vehicle I was still paying money on.” Another said, “I believe that the settlement provides fantastic relief to compensate fellow Saturn owners for past problems.” One particularly appreciative class member said, “I am very grateful to the [LakinChapman, LLC law firm for standing up for the consumer. I know they put a lot of time and dedication in their efforts to protect us.”
There are approximately 150,000 people and businesses that own or have owned these Saturn vehicles, and the benefits available to the class under the settlement are worth at least $ 61,742,250.
In accordance with the settlement agreement entered into between the parties, and the Court’s final order approving the settlement, GM was to mail claim forms to class members but, instead, GM filed for bankruptcy protection on June 1, 2009. In response to the news of GM’s bankruptcy filing, Brad Lakin of LakinChapman, LLC said, “Like so many people, we are saddened and disappointed by this development.”
On June 15, 2009, GM filed with the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California a notice of the bankruptcy and threatening that further attempts to enforce the Settlement Agreement and the Court’s final order would violate bankruptcy rules. On June 25, 2009, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California issued a stay of the litigation.
According to Rob Schmieder, an attorney at LakinChapman, LLC, “Although GM has repeatedly said that its ‘customers are the lifeblood of their business’ and that ‘customer satisfaction is the key to survival,’ GM has paid high-priced bankruptcy attorneys to alter its customers’ rights. With regard to Saturn customers, GM has refused to answer one simple question–Is GM still going to honor the Saturn VTi settlement agreement?”
“There are approximately 150,000 Saturn customers–many of whom have paid more than $ 5,000 out of pocket and others will continue to experience costly failures in the future,” said Mark Brown, an attorney with LakinChapman, LLC.
On July 5, 2009, the bankruptcy court approved the sale of “Old GM” to “New GM.” In the interim, a proposed sale of Saturn to Penske is pending. “GM’s silence may cause Penske end up purchasing Saturn with approximately 150,000 angry Saturn owners who could choose to take their business elsewhere,” said Mark Brown.