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Second Phase GM Ignition Switch Trials Underway in New York

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General Motors (GM) first initiated a recall of their faulty ignition switches in 2014. After several other subsequent recalls, they listed a total of 2.6 million vehicles that were equipped with ignition switches that could inadvertently turning to the “off” position, robbing the brakes and air bags of power and creating a safety risk.

GM then set up a compensation fund and took claims between August 2014 and January 2015. Just over 4,300 claims were received, but only 100 claims involving deaths and around 200 involving injuries, were approved. Plaintiffs who agreed to take the settlements gave up their rights to pursue additional compensation in court.

The company then faced the first series of bellwether trials that ended in 2016. There was one verdict in favor of GM, three other cases were settled, and two dropped or dismissed.

Now, the company is involved in the second phase of bellwether trials that address the revised version of the ignition switch. The first of these began in New York on July 10, 2017. On July 19, 2017, Bloomberg News reported that the Manhattan jury decided GM was not liable for damages.

Plaintiff Claims Updated Ignition Switch Still Faulty

The plaintiff in this first trial stated that in March 2014, he was driving his Chevrolet HHR in Tucson, Arizona, when a car ahead of him came to a stop. He tried to stop as well, but found that both his brakes and his steering were ineffective. He claimed he crashed into the other vehicle because the ignition switch had turned to the “off” position, robbing his steering and anti-lock brakes of power. He now has a permanent leg injury because of that crash.

The plaintiff blamed the “updated” GM ignition switch for the crash, stating that like the old switch, it turned off without warning. He added that the company should have recalled and repaired these defective ignition switches, and sought compensatory and punitive damages.

GM stated that the plaintiff could not prove that the ignition switch was to blame for the accident, and couldn’t prove that the switch turned off. They maintained that the newer ignition switch was safer than the previous version that was linked to over 100 fatalities. They blamed the plaintiff for the accident, stating that he was following too close and driving too fast for the conditions.

This case is one of six “phase two” bellwether trials that are scheduled over the next few coming months.

Lost Value Lawsuits Dismissed

Other plaintiffs were hoping to recoup the money they lost when the GM ignition switch recall went into effect, stating that their vehicles lost value, but the New York federal judge who is overseeing the consolidated litigation recently dismissed those claims.

The ignition switch problem first showed up in Chevrolet Cobalt and Saturn Ion vehicles produced in 2002 and 2003. GM was aware of issues with these ignition switches for over a decade but failed to take meaningful action until 2014. Prior to that, they suggested that dealerships advise owners not to add extra items to their key chains, and rejected suggested solutions.

Once the issue came out, GM paid $900 million to settle a federal criminal investigation and nearly $600 million to compensate victims who suffered injuries and the families of those who lost members to crashes believed to be linked to the problem.