It was off to a rocky start for the first several plaintiffs in the GM ignition switch litigation, which involves a vehicle defect linked to at least 124 deaths and thousands of injuries. The first case was dismissed after the plaintiff was deemed not credible. In the second case, jurors found GM vehicles were unreasonably defective, but decided that wasn’t the cause of plaintiff’s accident.
Now, in this third case, overseen by a federal court in New York, GM has chosen to settle with plaintiff in a confidential agreement. This case stems from a fatal crash in November 2013 in which decedent was operating a Saturn Ion. The announcement of a settlement came just a month before the civil trial was scheduled.
The settlement was characterized as “an unexpected turn” in the course of the consolidated litigation over defective ignition switches, which resulted in approximately 2.6 million in vehicles were recalled. The company admitted that for more than 10 years, it failed to recall the vehicles with the defective switches. The feature was problematic – and even deadly – because it resulted in slipping from the “run” position to “off,” which also disabled key safety features, including air bags.
There were a total of six bellwether cases set for trial this year. These bellwether cases are closely watched in multi-district litigation because they set a pattern for settling the remaining cases. It’s important because there is no way the courts would have time to see all of them through to trial. The bellwether cases let both sides know how it’s likely to play out so that they can make informed decisions in reaching future settlements.
With the first three cases resolved, attorneys for the car manufacturer and the plaintiffs are expected to meet with a federal judge on April 20th to determine the next step for resolving the remaining cases.
Already GM has shelled out some $2 billion to thousands of consumers, the U.S. Justice Department and shareholders. That includes a nearly $600 million victims’ compensation fund, that is administered by an outside law firm, plus $575 million to shareholders. The remainder has gone to settlement of 1,300 personal injury and wrongful death lawsuits. The company also paid a $900 million penalty for lying to regulators and consumers about the dangerous vehicle defect.
This most recent settlement stemmed from the death of a 35-year-old married father of five children who lost control of the vehicle and crashed into a culvert in Pennyslvania. The vehicle’s brakes didn’t work and the air bags failed to deploy because the ignition switch had slipped from the “on” position, resulting in a loss of power to the engine. The case was In re General Motors Ignition Switch Litigation.
Unlike the two previous trials, which involved personal injury, this was the first trial that involved a consumer death.
The company previously admitted that some of its employees knew about the problem for many years. The fix would have been relatively quick and inexpensive, but the company failed to alert consumers or the government of any problem.
Contact the Carolina injury lawyers at the Lee Law Offices by calling 800-887-1965.
GM settles ignition switch case before third trial, April 7, 2016, By Nate Raymond, Reuters
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