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More than 2,200 personal injury claims have been filed with a General Motors ignition switch recall victim’s compensation fund launched in August, with at least 36 involving wrongful death claims confirmed by the auto maker.
The GM recall fund was established to address claims stemming from more than 2.5 million Chevrolet Cobalt, Pontiac G5, Saturn Ion, Pontiac Solstice, Chevrolet HHR and Saturn Sky vehicles manufactured between 2003-2007, which contain defective ignition switches that may cause the car to suddenly shut off if heavy key chains are used or if the ignition is jarred, such as may occur in an accident.
As a result of the problems, drivers may lose control of their vehicle or the GM airbags may fail to deploy, increasing the risk of serious injury or death.
At least 2,215 GM claims have been confirmed by the auto-maker as of December 1, but that number is expected to continue to rise as the deadline for filing injury or wrongful death claims with the settlement fund approaches at the end of January 2015.
Originally, GM claimed that only about a dozen deaths were linked to the group of small vehicles recalled in February 2014. However, the latest report from the compensation fund’s manager indicates that at least 36 wrongful death claims have been determined to be eligible for compensation. However, it is widely expected that the process of reviewing claims and determining eligibility will identify other GM wrongful death claims linked to the defective ignition switches.
GM Recall Litigation
In addition to claims pursued through the victim’s compensation fund, a growing number of GM recall injury lawsuits are being filed against the auto maker in state and federal courts nationwide. Many of those claims involve similar injuries associated with other GM vehicles recalled in recent months for defective ignition switches, but which are not part of the compensation fund.
Since June, all claims filed against General Motors throughout the federal court system have been consolidated for pretrial proceedings in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, as part of a Multidistrict Litigation, or MDL. The cases are centralized before U.S. District Judge Jesse Furman to reduce duplicative discovery into common issues, avoid conflicting pretrial rulings and to serve the convenience of the parties, witnesses and the courts..
On December 1, Judge Furman approved the creation and joint management of an official GM ignition switch MDL website (PDF) that will include court orders, hearing transcripts, important pleadings and other information related to the litigation. Both parties will jointly manage the website, which can be found at http://gmignitionmdl.com, which is intended to keep any content neutral and unbiased.
As part of the coordinated pretrial proceedings in the federal court system, Judge Furman has established a bellwether process for preparing a small group of GM ignition switch lawsuits for early trial dates in the MDL, with the first case expected to go before a federal jury in January 2016.