News surfaces regarding General Motors’ ignition switch defect quite frequently: stories about the tragic accidents that resulted from the defect, updates on new vehicles being recalled, and articles regarding the impending lawsuits resulting from these accidents. To recap, GM’s ignition-switch defect caused small cars, mostly from its pre-bankruptcy era, to turn off suddenly when the ignition switch was jostled. That action caused the engine to lose power and disable airbags.
Today is another big news day for the GM litigation saga.
First, as an update on GM’s legal woes: thousands of lawsuits have been filed as a result of deaths and injuries that occurred due to the ignition switch defect, and that litigation has been underway for quite some time. GM has settled various cases, including a case brought by the family of Brooke Melton, who died in a 2010 crash when her Chevy Cobalt’s ignition switch shut down the engine and electronic safety features, including the airbags. (That case was significant because the family sued again after settlement—this time for fraud—due to evidence that GM knew more about the defect and chose to “cover it up.” GM settled with the Meltons, but, in addition to forcing GM to admit negligence and recall millions of cars for safety issues it may not have otherwise addressed, the Melton case fast-tracked other wrongful death lawsuits).
GM also entered into a $900 million settlement as part of a Department of Justice investigation into its failure to fix the ignition switch defect. Federal prosecutors lodged several charges against GM, but those counts would be dismissed in three years if GM fixes its recall processes. As part of that settlement, GM also admitted to having defrauded customers by marketing its vehicles as safe during the period in question.
In short, GM is being forced to confront various legal problems due to the ignition switch defect, who knew what when, and the fallout from not acting on that information.
Now for today, Friday, January 22, 2016’s news: the first federal trial over GM’s ignition switch recall ended this morning. It was not concluded the way one may assume, however. The case was actually dismissed due to allegations that the plaintiff had given misleading testimony about his physical and financial condition. Indeed, plaintiff Robert Scheuer agreed to voluntarily dismiss his claims against GM with prejudice – which means they cannot be refilled. He also agreed not to take any monies from the automaker for the claims he had asserted.
While the dismissal relates to Ms. Scheuer’s case only, not the other ignition switch lawsuits (and is unlikely to affect other lawsuits) – it may be a temporary setback for other similar, pending cases against GM simply because cannot be used to gauge the potential value of that litigation.
To date, GM has paid roughly $2 billion in settlements and penalties after its admission that certain employees knew about the switch problems for years prior to the recall.
GM may have gotten lucky today, but, as several hundred lawsuits remain unresolved, it by no means is out of the woods.
We will continue to monitor GM’s litigation and watch these cases unfold.
If you have suffered an injury or your loved one has suffered death as a result of any defective product, don’t delay. Call the skilled attorneys at Brooks Law Group today. We can help determine whether you are entitled to any compensation.