In a bellwether car accident lawsuit on the widespread GM ignition switch failure, a jury found that:
- The GM ignition switch was faulty;
- This defect rendered vehicles unreasonably unsafe;
- GM failed to provide adequate warning of this dangerous defect;
- This defect did NOT cause the New Orleans crash that injured two plaintiffs.
The outcome was both good news and bad news. The bad news is that for this particular plaintiff, she did not prevail in the assertion that the auto manufacturer was liable to pay her damages. However, for future cases, the finding that the ignition switch defect created an unreasonable danger and the company failed to warn about it was significant.
This was the second bellwether case on this issue, and it was one that was closely watched after the first was abruptly dismissed following allegations that the victim was dishonest on the witness stand.
In this case, the company insisted this particular car accident, which occurred on an icy bridge on New Orleans, was no different than 30 other crashes that happened in that same area that same night: attributable to the icy, slippery conditions of the road, not the ignition switch defect.
“(The accident) was caused by the driver losing control on an icy bridge during a state-wide winter weather emergency,” a company spokesperson wrote in a statement.
As far as the finding that the switch was defective, that had already been established by the fact that the company has recalled some 30 million vehicles in the last two years – with about 2.5 million of those directly related to the ignition switch. The firm claims to have fixed the problem, which is blamed for at least 124 deaths and hundreds of injuries.
So far, it has paid out $870 million in order to settle personal injury and wrongful death claims, and it’s also paid the U.S. government $900 million in order to resolve a criminal investigation.
The question now is how much the company will need to pay in order to resolve the remaining federal and state lawsuits. This second bellwether case suggests the company isn’t going to walk away without paying anything, but plaintiffs may have to work harder to prove liability. That’s going to mean more of them will likely accept a lower settlement than they might have previously anticipated.
Still, plaintiff attorney characterized the outcome as a, “victory for consumers” because it solidified the argument that GM failed to use reasonable care.
The jury verdict was handed down in New York following a two-week trial that involved two plaintiffs who said they were injured in the case. The first plaintiff was the driver and the second the passenger, and both reportedly suffered injuries when the driver lost control of the car. She alleged the loss of control was due to the ignition switch defect, which could cause the ignition to shut off mid-ride when the keys are only slightly jostled.
There are 200 pending lawsuits against the company for various defects, including the ignition switch.
This was the second of six bellwether cases – with three chosen by plaintiffs and three by the defense.
If you have been a victim of a traffic accident, call Chalik & Chalik at (954) 476-1000 or 1 (800) 873-9040.
Bell Tolls for Car Owners in GM Ignition Suits, March 30, 2016, By Paul Barrett, Bloomberg.com
More Blog Entries:
Another Wave of Airbag Recalls Affects 5 Million Vehicles, Feb. 21, 2016, Miami Car Accident Attorney Blog