General Motor Co’s colossal ignition switch recall, involving millions of vehicles with the potential for mid-operation engine shut-off, resulted in a slew of personal injury and wrongful death lawsuits.
Now, the first of those cases has been dismissed voluntarily by the plaintiff amid claims the claimant gave misleading testimony. However, legal analysts say it is unlikely that outcome will affect the many other pending cases waiting to go to trial.
Plaintiff agreed to voluntarily dismiss his claim with prejudice, meaning he can’t refile the claim again. It’s being looked at as a temporary setback, and there is a second bellwether trial slated to be begin in two months.
The U.S. District judge, overseeing the federal trial in Manhattan, had commended plaintiff for doing what he said was “the right and sensible thing” in choosing to close the door on his case and walk away without receiving any compensation.
That decision occurred after the defense accused plaintiff of providing testimony that made it seem as if his physical injury and financial condition was worse than it actually was. The crash in question occurred in May 2014. He alleged the airbags in his 2003 model Saturn failed to deploy, and he accused the company of concealing the ignition switch defect that led to this problem. The crash happened not long after the car maker initiated a recall of some 2.6 million vehicles.
The company argued the ignition switch defect was not the cause of plaintiff’s back and neck pain. An attorney for the firm took it a step further, calling plaintiff’s testimony “lies.”
A lawyer representing a group of plaintiffs said prior to these developments, he had believed the plaintiff had a strong chance at winning his claim. He called the developments “stunning.”
According to The Wall Street Journal, a realtor got in touch with GM with alleged evidence of a doctored check written by the plaintiff, who attempted to purchase a home several weeks after the accident. This wasn’t directly linked to the crash, but it did affect the credibility of plaintiff and his wife, who had already given deposition testimony about their financial situation that countered what that check showed.
Still, the plaintiff attorney said this should not reflect poorly on the hundreds of other pending claims. Rather, he characterized this situation as “an outlier.” It’s unlikely, he said, to shed light on how the rest of the cases are going to go.
So far, the Detroit-based manufacturer has paid $2 billion in penalties and settlements, in which it was conceded some employees were aware of the ignition switch problems years before the recall.
Even so, hundreds of injury lawsuits are still pending, many of those claim losses for injury, death and lost vehicle value.
The issues concerning the safety (or lack thereof) of GM cars and trucks are very much real, and while it’s unfortunate that this case ended as it did, it should not reflect poorly on the remaining plaintiffs.
Although GM may be asserting the moral high ground in this case, let’s not forget that the company admitted that it mislead both consumers and regulators about this faulty ignition switch and the danger it posed on our roads.
The case slated for trial in March involves several passengers who were in a vehicle when the engine cut off, slid on black ice and then struck a guardrail.
Contact the Carolina injury lawyers at the Lee Law Offices by calling 800-887-1965.
GM Ignition-Switch Suit Dismissed, Jan. 22, 2016, By Mike Spector and Sara Randazzo, The Wall Street Journal
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