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A group of plaintiffs’ attorneys have been appointed to serve in various leadership roles in the consolidated federal proceedings established for all GM recall lawsuits filed over defective ignition switches contained in millions of vehicles, which have caused hundreds of serious accidents, diminished the resale value of GM vehicles and damaged the company’s stock.
In June, the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation established coordinated proceedings for all lawsuits filed against General Motors (GM) over the ignition switch problems, centralizing cases filed nationwide before U.S. District Judge Jesse Furman in the Southern District of New York as part of an MDL, or Multi-District Litigation.
The coordinated pretrial proceedings in the GM ignition switch MDL is designed to reduce duplicative discovery into common issues in the cases, avoid conflicting rulings from different judges on the same issues and to serve the convenience of witnesses, parties and the courts.
Following a status conference earlier this month, Judge Furman issued an order (PDF) on August 15, appointing a group of 15 different attorneys representing plaintiffs in the litigation to serve in leadership positions, taking certain actions that benefit all plaintiffs.
The appointments include three attorneys who will serve as co-lead counsel, one attorney appointed as Plaintiff Liaison Counsel, an attorney appointed to serve as a Liaison Counsel between the federal and state courts, and a 10-person executive committee.
The GM recall attorneys will take various actions throughout the pretrial proceedings on behalf of all plaintiffs, including conducting and coordinating discovery, speaking for plaintiffs at hearings and meetings before the court, as well as negotiating and entering potential stipulations or settlement agreements with the Defendants.
Earlier this month, Judge Furman also issued a preservation order (PDF), stipulating that any ignition switch parts removed from the recalled vehicles must be properly preserved as evidence.
In another pretrial order (PDF), Judge Furman urged that discovery proceedings continue as the MDL gets up to speed. However, he indicated that the court was disinclined to allow depositions yet, unless it was to preserve the testimony of a witness who might become unavailable in the future.
GM Ignition Switch Recall Lawsuits
GM currently faces about 108 ignition switch recall lawsuits that have been made a part of the MDL under Judge Furman. All of the cases involve similar allegations, stemming from GM ignition switch recalls issued this year, which have impacted several million Chevy, Saturn, Pontiac and other vehicles.
Faulty ignition switches may cause the car to suddenly shut off if heavy keys are used or if the ignition is jarred, such as may occur during a crash. If the vehicle suddenly shuts off, it may cause the driver to lose control or could result in the airbags no deploying when needed to prevent serious injury in an accident.
The automaker has acknowledged that at least 16 deaths and more than 60 accidents may be linked to the problem. However, federal investigators, consumer watchdog groups, and even some GM officials, indicate that the number is likely to climb as more information becomes known. Much of that information may come out in the discovery proceedings involving the GM litigation.
As GM recall attorneys continue to review and file additional cases, it is ultimately expected that several thousand personal injury, wrongful death and consumer class action lawsuits will be brought as a result of accidents caused by the defects and vehicle owners who have suffered economic harm caused by depreciation of their vehicle’s value due to the ignition switches.
General Motors has already agreed to provide compensation to injury victims in accidents where airbags failed to deploy, resulting in personal injury or death. The GM settlement fund has been established for cases for injuries and deaths among drivers or passengers in one of the recalled vehicles, as well as pedestrians and occupants of other vehicles involved in accidents with recalled GM cars.