GM Ignition-Switch Battles Persist
By: Cohen, Placitella & Roth @ May 05, 2016
For car manufacturers, the last couple of years largely seem to be marked by recalls over defective automobile parts. Indeed, according to a recent article in The Wall Street Journal, a new trial is set to begin concerning defective ignition switches recalled by General Motors Co. (GM) in 2014. And as a bellwether trial, it will likely set a tone for future claims against the automaker.
Deadly Ignition-Switch Defect Settlements Have Already Cost GM More than $2 Billion
As the article notes, a trial against GM began earlier this month in connection with a defective ignition switch. At least 124 people died as a result, and legal battles against the auto giant do not look as though they will go away anytime soon. To be sure, GM has a “raft of previous settlements” in its recent past due to injuries caused by the defective ignition switch, but the automaker could not settle all claims against it.
Those settlements included the U.S. Justice Department, company shareholders, and “thousands of consumers” who were injured as a result of the product defect. And those settlements cost GM more than $2 billion. Yet numerous lawsuits remain on the car manufacturer’s horizon, reminding the company that it “still faces potential financial penalties over the faulty switch.”
To be clear, the billions of dollars for which the company already settled does not include many consumer injuries. And those injuries may result in trials with substantial jury verdicts. The first of 2016 began in lower Manhattan and could have implications for other GM victims across the country.
Defective Ignition-Switch Bellwether Trials to Begin Against GM
In mid-January, a trial against GM began in lower Manhattan. The lawsuit concerns a May 2014 crash in which a 49-year-old plaintiff has alleged serious injuries—including neck and back injuries—that happened because of a defective ignition switch in his 2003 Saturn Ion vehicle. Specifically, the plaintiff, Robert Scheuer, alleges that that the faulty ignition switch “prevented the air bag from deploying when his car crashes into a tree,” the article explains.
The plaintiff’s automobile is one of about 2.6 million cars recalled by GM back in early 2014 after the automaker learned that the ignition switch could “slip out of the run position, disabling safety features including air bags.” In addition, the defective ignition switch “affected power-steering and braking when it slipped from the run position.”
As the article notes, the Scheuer case is “the first of several ‘bellwether’ cases this year aimed at setting a pattern for additional settlements between GM and plaintiffs.” What is a bellwether case? It is one in which the outcome of trial will suggest a trend for future cases that plaintiffs may file against the automaker. As such, anyone who suffered an injury as a result of the faulty ignition switches in GM vehicles should be following this case very closely—a win for the plaintiff could signal a greater likelihood of future wins for plaintiffs who sue the car manufacturer. According to The Wall Street Journal, the Scheuer case likely will last only three weeks, after which time other plaintiffs will have a better idea of how juries may go when it comes to deciding for or against GM.
In the meantime, if you or someone you love suffered injuries due to an automobile defect, a Philadelphia product liability lawyer can answer your questions about filing a claim for financial compensation. Contact Cohen Placitella & Roth, P.C. today to learn more about filing a product defect lawsuit.