GM to ask bankruptcy court for lawsuit protection

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General Motors revealed in court filings late Tuesday that it will soon ask a federal bankruptcy judge to shield the company from legal claims for conduct that occurred before its 2009 bankruptcy.

The automaker's strategy is in a motion filed in a Corpus Christi, Texas, federal court case, and in other cases across the nation that involve the defective ignition switches that have led GM to recall 2.6 million small cars.

The motion asks U.S. District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos to delay action on the lawsuit until the bankruptcy court rules and other federal courts decide if the case should be combined with other lawsuits. But GM says it's not asking to halt action on a motion to force GM to tell customers not to drive their cars that are being recalled.

GM has said at least 13 deaths have been linked to the switch problem. The switch can unexpectedly slip out of the "run" position, shutting down the engine, knocking out power-assisted steering and power brakes, and disabling the air bags. GM admits knowing about the problem for at least a decade, but it didn't start recalling the cars, including Chevrolet Cobalts and Saturn Ions, until February.

The company's motion says GM will ask the bankruptcy court in New York to enforce an order made during the 2009 bankruptcy case that split GM into a new company and an old company. Claims from before the bankruptcy would go to "Old GM," called Motors Liquidation Co., while claims after the bankruptcy would go to the new General Motors Co.

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