General Motors on Thursday won a court judgment that could decrease the private litigation it deals with defective vehicle ignition switches, which have been linked to 124 deaths and set off a huge recall.
U.S. District Judge Jesse Furman in Manhattan stated the plaintiffs in two bellwether cases, including crashes where air bags had deployed, could not introduce skilled testimony to demonstrate how faulty ignition switches might have played a role in the crashes.
The plaintiffs stated their General Motors ignition switches may have turned from “run” at the moment of impact to “accessory” or “off,” resulting in the accidents or making them worse, and after that back to “run” before the airbags deployed.
But Furman, who manages multi-district litigation (” MDL”) over the ignition switches, consisting of 213 cases where airbags deployed, called the expert testimony “unreliable” as there was no evidence that “double switch rotation” took place anywhere.
“The court acknowledges that these conclusions may have a substantial effect on a swath of cases now pending in the MDL and, therefore, does not reach them lightly,” the judge wrote.
Furman stated his role is “to make sure the reliability and relevance of expert testimony,” and the opinions of the plaintiffs’ professionals “do not pass muster.”
GM has paid over $2.6 billion in fines and settlements, consisting of $900 million to settle a U.S. Department of Justice criminal case, concerning ignition switches that could cause engines to stall and avoid airbags from deploying.
The largest U.S. automaker has recalled over 2.6 million vehicles due to the problem since February 2014.
As of November 30, there were 1,723 unresolved personal injury and wrongful death claims in the multi-district litigation, consisting of the 213 where airbags deployed, a court filing revealed. The automaker has also settled claims related to over 1,700 claimants.
The decision on Thursday dismissed claims by Vivian Garza, who was 19 when her Chevrolet Cobalt collided on an icy highway in Alice, Texas, in February 2011.
It also dismissed claims by the son of Ruby Greenroad concerning the January 2013 crash of her 2007 Cobalt in the Houston location. Greenroad passed away at age 90 the following year.