Trials & Litigation

In first GM ignition-switch case to go to verdict, jury awards zip, saying defect didn't cause crash

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Both sides proclaimed victory Wednesday after the first jury verdict in a General Motors ignition-switch case.

That’s because the jury, while finding a 2007 Saturn Sky unreasonably dangerous because of an ignition-switch defect, also found that the defect did not cause the plaintiff driver to lose control on an icy New Orleans bridge in 2014. Hence, it awarded no damages, reports the Detroit News.

“The jurors studied the merits of the case and saw the truth: this was a very minor accident that had absolutely nothing to do with the car’s ignition switch,” said GM said in a written statement. “The evidence was overwhelming that this accident—like more than 30 others that occurred in the same area that night—was caused by the driver losing control on an icy bridge during a state-wide winter weather emergency.”

Plaintiffs lawyer Randall Jackson said he wasn’t happy with the overall verdict. “But we’re pleased with the findings that the jury made with regard to the fact that our client’s car was unreasonably dangerous.”

Bloomberg, MLive.com and Reuters also have stories about the Manhattan federal court verdict, in one of six cases being tried for guidance on damages that might be awarded in consolidated litigation.

The first case, selected by plaintiffs, was voluntarily dismissed following claims of fraud.

Wednesday’s verdict, reached after two weeks of trial and a day of deliberation, came in a case selected by GM.

GM has admitted the defect, recalled millions of vehicles and agreed to pay $595 million to settle claims over 124 deaths and hundreds of injuries. Another $575 million went to settle shareholder and personal injury lawsuits, and the company agreed to pay $900 million to settle a criminal investigation by the feds.

Related coverage:

ABAJournal.com: “As leaders blame GM lawyers for ignition woes, lawmaker asks: Why wasn’t general counsel fired?”

ABAJournal.com: “10 years after fatal accident, conviction is reversed; GM knew its car was to blame but kept quiet”

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