GM Bellwether Trials To Involve Vehicles From Initial Ignition Switch Recall Only

  • Written by: Irvin Jackson
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The U.S. District Judge presiding over all federal General Motors (GM) recall lawsuits, involving problems caused by defective ignition switches used in millions of vehicles, has established the criteria for selecting groups of cases that will be prepared for early trial dates.

Since June 2014, all lawsuits filed against GM as a result of defective ignition switches have been centralized for coordinated pretrial proceedings before U.S. District Judge Jesse Furman in the Southern District of New York, as part of a multidistrict litigation (MDL).

There are currently about 167 complaints centralized in the GM MDL, which all involve similar allegations involving problems with ignition switches that may cause vehicles to suddenly shut off if heavy key chains are used, or if the ignition is jarred, such as may occur in an accident. This could prevent the airbags from deploying, increasing the risk of serious injury or death in a crash.

As part of the coordinated pretrial proceedings, Judge Furman previously established a bellwether process, where a series of GM ignition switch trials will be scheduled starting in early 2016, which are designed to help the parties gauge how juries may respond to certain evidence and testimony that is likely to be repeated throughout the litigation.

In an order (PDF) issued earlier this month, Judge Furman indicated that GM bellwether trials will be limited to three categories of personal injury or wrongful death lawsuits, which all must involve failure of airbags to deploy in a small subset of recalled vehicles, including certain Chevrolet Cobalt, Pontiac G5, Saturn Ion, Pontiac Solstice, Chevrolet HHR and Saturn Sky models.

In a follow up order (PDF) issued this week, Judge Furman further clarified three injury categories for cases that will be eligible for the GM bellwether trial plan. The first category will be limited to wrongful death claims involving vehicles with airbag non-deployment. The second category will include “severe personal injury claims” stemming from airbag non-deployment, which Judge Furman outlined in the order, indicating that the injury must prevent the injured person from performing substantially all of the normal acts of daily life or suffer a loss or limitation of a body function. The third category will include the remaining mild to moderate personal injury lawsuits against GM.

While nearly 10 million GM vehicles have been recalled in recent years due ignition switch problems, the bellwether process will be limited to a small sub-set of about 2.6 million vehicles recalled in February 2014. In those cases, federal investigators and an internal probe have suggested that GM officials knew about the risk of problems for more than 10 years, but failed to take actions to remove the vehicles from the road or protect the public.

Judge Furman has also declared that the bellwether cases must stem from accidents that occurred on or after July 11, 2009, which would put them after General Motor’s bankruptcy proceedings. The auto maker is currently seeking to have a bankruptcy court protect it from some pre-July 2009 cases, indicating that the “new” GM can not be held liable for the actions of the “old” GM, which ceased to exits after the bankruptcy.

In the wake of the recalls, a GM settlement fund was established for injury and wrongful death cases stemming from some of the recalled vehicles, which has received over 4,000 claims as of the January 31 cut off for accepting new cases. GM has indicated that it has approved payments for at least 52 people who died and 79 others who were injured as a result of airbag failures. While the auto maker continues to review thousands of claims, 501 cases have reportedly been determined by GM to be ineligible for compensation.

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1 comment

  1. Mona Reply

    On March 4, of this yr. I was involved in one car accident. I was the driver and only one vehicle. I had just purchased a Hummer H3 2007. In which I went out of my lane just enough to make the sound when you go off to shoulder I turned steering wheel back to the left to get back in lane somehow I must of turned to fast, hard, etc. The hummer went dwn unti the medium embankment and rolled 8x I hit my head on steering wheel and was knocked out, passing by car seen accident stopped to help me. As it was late around 1145 1200am.. on a rural dark hwy. When I woke I was laying on drivers side the people to were there called 911, and my husband. The lady man told me to be still help was on the way but turn off my ignition. Thevhummer wasn’t still running it was already shut off I just turned the key just in case of it catching on fire. Somehow I was able to free myself kicked windshield yo crawl out, however no airbags in the hummer deployed at all none of them. I suffered injuries to my back , hips, and back of neck buldgeing disks my back is curved now to theckeftvi can it get up out of bed on my own or do daily house cleaning. I cant stand more than 10 mins andvmy back starts hurting. I’ve seen chiropractor but I am no longer cuz ge wasntvhelping me I have full coverage but per the chiropractic officevivevexhausted my pip benefits, how idk. As this chiropractor only seen me for maximum abt 10 -15mins. So now I have no way of getting my back looked atvcuz my ina. I have no atty yo help me, so I’m reaching out to someone to help me, I do not have an atty. Nor do I have a doctor to follow up my back is in back condition. I cant do anything anymore my life has been turned over 100 degrees and hasn’t stopped. Can you please help me someway.I have alot of pics. Of hummer showingthe airbags non deployment. Can someone please help me.

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