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GM must face class actions over defective transmissions -judge

FILE PHOTO: Logo of GM atop the company headquarters

By Jonathan Stempel

(Reuters) - A federal judge in Detroit certified class actions for drivers in 26 U.S. states who accused General Motors Corp of producing faulty transmissions for about 800,000 vehicles from the 2015 to 2019 model years.

Monday's decision by U.S. District Judge David Lawson covers several Chevrolet and GMC trucks and SUVs, several Cadillac models, and the Chevrolet Corvette and Camaro, equipped with 8L45 or 8L90 eight-speed automatic transmissions.

Drivers said the transmissions cause vehicles to shudder, and cause "harsh shifts" including hesitations, lunges, lurches, and making them feel as though they had been rear-ended.

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The drivers said GM knew about the defect before selling the vehicles, which they would not have purchased had they known.

In his 60-page decision, Lawson said drivers on a state-by-state basis showed that common issues predominated and it would be more efficient to sue Detroit-based GM in groups.

Individual lawsuits could prove more costly and reduce potential recoveries.

The judge also found substantial evidence that the automaker had "rapidly accumulated irrefutable evidence of a widespread defect as a result of a years-long - and apparently still ongoing - investigation" without telling drivers.

GM declined to comment on Wednesday, saying it does not generally discuss pending litigation.

In opposing certification, GM said there was no proof that all class members were injured, and some vehicles exhibited no problems. Lawson said GM waived its right to arbitrate some claims by seeking rulings from him.

The 26 states are Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Washington and Wisconsin.

The case is Speerly et al v General Motors LLC, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Michigan, No. 19-11044.

(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Marguerita Choy)