GM Ignition Switch Trials - GM: 2, Plaintiffs: 0

Jury says General Motors ignition switch didn't cause Louisiana Saturn Sky accident on icy road.

Posted in News

— A New York jury has ruled a General Motors ignition switch didn't cause a 2014 Louisiana crash of a 2007 Saturn Sky.

The trial is the second "bellwether" or test trial to determine how to proceed on a stockpile of lawsuits filed against GM over the defective ignition switches. Based on the outcome of the six New York bellwether trials, one side could decide to settle all the cases or decide to keep fighting case by case.

More than 30 million GM vehicles have been recalled to replace ignition switches that can suddenly move out of the "run" position and move to the "accessory" or "off" position. A simple bump in the road or a heavy key ring can cause the switch to move and cause a loss of power steering and power brakes and in some cases, failure of the airbags to deploy.

The first New York trial ended in a disaster for the plaintiffs when U.S. District Judge Jesse Furman learned of evidence which suggested the plaintiffs lied to the court.

Although the first trial was chosen by attorneys for the plaintiffs, the second trial was picked by GM. It was a good choice for the automaker as the jury said the ignition switch in the car was defective, but the switch had nothing to do with causing the Saturn Sky crash.

The January 2014 crash in New Orleans involved plaintiffs Dionne Spain and Lawrence Barthelemy, both who claim GM is responsible for the accident because the automaker ignored the ignition switch defects for 10 years.

The accident occurred while the Sky was traveling on the Crescent City Connection Bridge in New Orleans. The jury ruled against awarding damages after hearing how the accident occurred on an icy road in winter, a patch of road that GM said had at least 30 accidents that night due to the icy road conditions.

The ice was so bad a responding police car was rear-ended by an ambulance at the site. The Saturn Sky hit a guardrail, a "crash" the jury agreed was only a minor accident that caused only minor injuries.

GM also showed evidence to the jury about damage to the Saturn Sky, damage that consisted of scrapes on a bumper but not a single dent.

GM attorney Mike Brock told the jury the two plaintiffs received only minor injuries from the crash, then suddenly weeks later started reporting other health issues. Barthelemy complained about back pain weeks after the accident and blamed it on the minor accident, but GM said the back pain was from sitting in jail for days due to other traffic violations.

The jurors did find that GM failed to warn consumers about the defective switches, something that has been public knowledge since GM admitted it hid the defects for over 10 years. However, jurors said the switch didn't cause the Louisiana crash, therefore the plaintiffs won't see a dime from GM.

Although the plaintiffs didn't get what they wanted, their attorneys are still claiming victory due to the jury ruling the ignition switch was defective. Even if that can be seen as a victory, it's the only one against GM in the first two trials.

GM views the verdict as another win even though the jury said the car had a defective ignition switch. That finding is not surprising considering millions of GM cars have been recalled because of the same switch. GM can easily pat itself on the back based on the jury finding the accident was unrelated to the switch and the fact no damages will be awarded.

GM has already paid out a whopping $2 billion because of scamming the public and government for 10 years. Some of that money includes $575 million to settle 1,385 death and injury claims and a shareholder suit, and $595 million to resolve claims for 124 deaths and 275 injuries caused by the defective ignition switches. Add to that $900 million to buy its way out of a government criminal probe.

The third GM ignition switch trial is scheduled for May 2016, when lawyers for the plaintiffs will choose the case.