Bucks County couple sues GM for property damaage caused by car fire

By Jim Boyle | Nov 20, 2014

A Bucks County husband and wife say that General Motors is responsible for the fire that started in their car and destroyed their garage, according to a product liability suit filed at the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.

Randy and Beth Rice, of Quakertown, seeks damages in excess of $600,000 in compensation for the real property loss the couple experienced when their 2000 Pontiac Grand Prix caught fire on March 5, 2013. The Detroit-based car maker breached its warranty when it negligently allowed the vehicles to be sold to the public, the suit says.

GM ordered a recall in 2009 for more than 1.4 million passenger cars sold in the late 1990s and early 2000s, affecting make and models including Buick, Pontiac, Chevrolet and Oldsmobile. According to the recall, some of the engines can drop oil onto the exhaust manifold during hard braking.

If the manifold gets hot enough and the oil dribbles below the heat shield, it can start a small fire. The flames can then engulf the plastic spark plug wire channel, potentially resulting in a full-on engine compartment fire.

Consumers were told to bring the vehicles to the GM dealer, where technicians would remove the spark plug wire retention channel from the front of the engine bay, and then retrofit two new retainers.

It is not disclosed whether the Rices brought their Pontiac to a service technician to perform the work. According to the claim, the plaintiffs blame GM for the 2013 garage fire, saying the company manufactured and distributed the cars knowing they were defective.

The Rices claim the company showed negligence by failing to inspect the product before its sale and did not provide adequate notice to the plaintiffs of the recall. GM also failed to train its employees to manufacture the vehicle and ensure its safety, the complaint says. As the producer and marketer of the car, GM holds strict liability for the damage caused by its defective product, the Rices claim.

The plaintiffs are represented by Richard Boyd of Blue Bell, Pa.

The federal case ID is 2:14-cv-06649-PD.

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