General Motors Catches Break in New Ignition Ruling

Judge says expert testimony cannot be used.

by on Dec.28, 2017

GM caught a break in a new ruling about litigation related to its faulty ignition switches.

General Motors Co. may have just gotten a significant break related to private lawsuits filed about its faulty ignition switches on thousands of its small vehicles courtesy of a new ruling from the district court judge handling the lawsuits.

U.S. District Judge Jesse Furman in Manhattan said the plaintiffs in two bellwether cases, according to Reuters, where airbags deployed may not use expert testimony corroborating a theory how the defective switches were involved in crashes.

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Some of the lawsuits allege that the switches, which account for 124 deaths and hundreds of injuries, could have moved from the “run” position to the “accessory” position and then back to “run” allowing the airbags to deploy, but too late to be effective.

In certain situations, the switches would move from the “run” to “accessory” position, cutting power to the vehicle including the airbags, power steering and power brakes, often causing the driver to lose control of the vehicle.

(GM ignition litigation marches on. Click Here for the story.)

Furman called the expert testimony “unreliable,” Reuters reported, because there was no evidence that “double switch rotation” occurred anywhere. Furman is overseeing multi-district litigation regarding the ignition switches, including 213 cases where airbags deployed.

“The court recognizes that these conclusions may have a significant impact on a swath of cases now pending in the MDL and, thus, does not reach them lightly,” the judge wrote, noting later that his role is “to ensure the reliability and relevancy of expert testimony,” and the opinions of the plaintiffs’ experts “do not pass muster.”

GM ultimately admitted delaying a necessary recall which eventually involved millions of vehicles.

(Click Here for details about GM sidestepping possible $1b ignition switch settlement.)

Two lawyers for the plaintiffs did not immediately respond to requests for comment, Reuters noted. David Caldwell, a spokesman for Detroit-based GM, told Reuters the decision “reinforces our approach to contest cases that lack merit, while being open to fair resolution of cases that have more merit according to the facts and the law.” 

The company recalled more than 2.5 million vehicles, the largest recall in history at the time, now surpassed by the Takata airbag recall, and has paid more than $2.6 billion in penalties, fees and settlements due to the faulty switches.

(To see more about GM and the ignition lawsuits, Click Here.)

As of Nov. 30, there were 1,723 unresolved personal injury and wrongful death claims in the multi-district litigation, including the 213 where airbags deployed, a court filing shows. GM has also settled claims related to more than 1,700 claimants. 

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