Another GM Ignition Switch Trial Set to Start

By LARRY NEUMEISTER | March 16, 2016

Weeks after the first New York trial over General Motors’ faulty ignition switch controversy ended prematurely, a new one is set to start.

The Manhattan federal court trial that begins on Monday is meant to define legal boundaries that may aid the settlement of hundreds of lawsuits filed after GM revealed that it had continued to sell flawed cars after discovering an ignition switch defect in Chevy Cobalts and other small cars. Since early 2014, it has issued recalls affecting more than 30 million vehicles.

The switches can slip out of the on position, causing the cars to stall, knocking out power steering and turning off airbags. GM says it has fixed the problem.

The new trial results from a January 2014 accident on an icy New Orleans bridge. A man and woman who were in a 2007 Saturn seek compensation for injuries they say they incurred when the driver lost control of the car after she stepped on the brakes but could not stop.

GM says in court papers that the accident did not cause or contribute to any permanent injuries to either of the car’s occupants.

Among evidence the company plans to introduce is the testimony of a police officer who said the cause of crashes by 39 cars on a mile and a half stretch of the Crescent City Connection Bridge in New Orleans was excessive speeds by cars on ice.

The trial comes after the jury in an earlier trial was dismissed after both sides dropped the case when questions arose about the plaintiff’s truthfulness. The trials are among six scheduled for this year.

At a recent pretrial hearing, U.S. District Judge Jesse M. Furman said the cases were important to define legal boundaries because about 1,700 personal injury and wrongful death cases remain to be resolved.

“A substantial amount of work remains,” he said.

In September, GM announced it had reached a deal to settle 1,385 death and injury cases for $275 million and a class-action shareholders’ lawsuit for $300 million.

The company paid nearly $600 million to settle 399 claims made to a fund it established. Those claims covered 124 deaths and 275 injuries, though GM’s fund rejected more than 90 percent of the 4,343 claims it received, according to figures the company released in December.

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