DETROIT, MI – The second of six trials over a faulty ignition switch in General Motors cars linked to at least 124 deaths is underway this week in New York.
A claims facility set up by GM to compensate victims of the defective part in mid-to-late-2000s model cars will pay out $595 million to victims.
But there are still hundreds of outstanding claims against the automaker, and the six trials in New York are being used as bellwethers to determine how juries view evidence, and how to proceed with the outstanding cases.
The case being weighed this week involves a 2014 accident in New Orleans in which plaintiff Dionne Spain and her 2007 Saturn Sky were involves in a wreck during an ice storm. GM has argued that Spain’s vehicle suffered minimal damage and was not going fast enough for the airbag to deploy, according to a report in Bloomberg.
In 2014, GM recalled 2.6 million vehicles, including 2.2 million in the U.S., affected by the ignition switch, which was found in 2003-2007 Saturn Ions, 2007-2010 Saturn Skys, 2005-2011 Chevrolet HHRs, 2006-2010 Pontiac Solstices, and 2005-10 Chevrolet Cobalt and Pontiac G5 models.
The switch was found to be faulty because it could slip out of the “run” position to the “accessory” or “off” positions, leading to a loss of power. The risk may be increased if the key ring is carrying added weight or if the vehicle goes off road or experiences some jarring event, including rough roads.
If the key turns to one of those positions, officials say the front air bags may not work if there’s a crash.
In September, a federal prosecutor’s office in New York fined General Motors $900 million and issued two felonies against the company as part of a deferred prosecution agreement. The agreement means GM will have to fulfill several obligations under the auspice of an independent monitor over the next three years for the two felonies to be dismissed with prejudice.
Separately, in the latest trials, plaintiffs are arguing that GM should be liable for defective cars because it failed to act fast enough on recalling the cars.
The first trial ended abruptly after the plaintiff was accused of giving misleading testimony.