In recent weeks and months, the so-called bell weather GM ignition switch trials have begun. The first of many GM ignition switch trials was held in New York and the second was recently held and decided in Louisiana. In the first trial, the jury was, unfortunately, never able to reach a verdict. The lack of a verdict in the first matter is attributed to a dismissal after the trial proceedings got underway. Apparently, the plaintiffs had misstated or mischaracterized the damages they suffered. The plaintiffs claimed that they lost their home due to misplacing a check caused by memory loss attributed to the accident. However, a realtor stepped forward showing that the couple had actually lost the home because they presented an altered check as proof of having the funds to purchase it. After their testimony was impeached and the plaintiff’s truthfulness and the basis for damages was called into question, they moved for dismissal.
It is important to note that the dismissal of this first case was unusual and largely unrelated to the merits of the admitted and established ignition switch defect. Unfortunately, the plaintiffs simply did not present an accurate telling of events.
In the second trial in New York over a New Orleans accident, a mixed verdict was reached. However, before we delve into the decision in this matter, let’s first look at the ignition switch issue to date.
The GM Ignition Switch Recall
The ignition switch recall was first announced on February 7, 2015. However, the company had missed signs of the problem and the problem’s scope for roughly a decade. The initial recall involved roughly 800,000 GM vehicles including the Chevrolet Cobalt and the Pontiac G5. The ignition switch recall was expanded several times including a March 2014 recall where 1.5 million additional vehicles, in May when 2.4 million more vehicles were recalled, and two recalls in June 2014. The first June recall involved 3.4 million vehicles and the second recall, announced June 30, involved the recall of 8.4 million cars.
The cause of the ignition switch failures is an improperly designed switch detent plunger. The plunger does not provide enough torque to prevent the switch from slipping out of position and disengaging the ignition. A bump in the road or a jostling of the keys in the ignition was sufficient to trigger this problem. The use of a heavy key-ring exacerbated the issue and made the defect more likely to occur.
When the defect occurs in a vehicle, the car or truck suffers a loss of power. This means that many systems a driver depends on would unexpectedly deactivate. For instance, the ignition switch defect frequently affected the power steering system making it more difficult or impossible to maintain control of the vehicle. Aside from affecting the power steering, the defect also would cut power to a vehicle’s airbags. Should an accident occur, the airbags would not apply. Thus, the defect both increased the likelihood of an accident and potentially exacerbated the injuries resulting from an accident.
Mixed Verdict in Second Ignition Switch Trial Suggests Potential Long-Term Liability for GM
In the second GM ignition switch trial, it appears that the individual case was, once again, fairly weak. However, the jury did reach a verdict in this matter and the verdict has the potential to open up liability when a stronger set of facts is present.
In this matter, the injured plaintiffs claimed that an accident in a Saturn Sky was caused by the ignition switch defect. GM argued that the ignition switch was not at fault in this accident and blamed the icy road conditions for the crash. On one hand, the jury agreed with GM that the ignition switch was not at fault for the accident attributing the cause of the crash to the poor weather conditions. On the other hand, the jurors did find that the vehicle that was equipped with a faulty ignition switch was unreasonably dangerous. Therefore, while the plaintiff’s individual claims were limited, the other individuals who were affected by this issue and suffered injuries should be pleased by the jury’s findings that the vehicle was unreasonably dangerous. While it appears that GM may have won the battle, in this case, the jury findings regarding the safety of the affected vehicles are sure to be utilized by future plaintiffs in trials over the ignition switch.
Injured in a Car Accident Caused by a Defective GM Ignition Switch?
If you have been severely injured to a vehicle defect, you may be entitled to compensation for your injuries, lost pay, medical bills, and other expenses. The strategic and aggressive personal injury lawyers of The Reiff Law Firm may be able to fight for you. To schedule a free and confidential legal consultation call (215) 246-9000 or contact us online today.