GM Ignition Switch Litigation Update

After GM issued the recall in 2014, there were hundreds of lawsuits filed against the company. Though some went the class action route, others were offered a chance to settle their claims with GM through their a $625 million fund designed to compensate victims and their families.

For those that chose to opt out of the class action lawsuit before the January 31, 2015 deadline, a compensation fund was established by GM and is being administered by attorney Kenneth Feinberg. GM has a website established for the fund, through which injured parties could file a claim and, if approved, receive compensation. However, if the injured parties accept the settlement, they must forfeit any and all claims against GM. Ultimately, the fund only approved 9% of the claims filed through the website.

For those who chose to file a lawsuit instead, there are approximately 130 pending lawsuits filed as part of a class action lawsuit that have been consolidated in a multidistrict litigation (MDL) in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.  Consolidating lawsuits in an MDL allows the pretrial process to be more streamlined and efficient, and is usually done when, as in this instance, it would be convenient for the parties and witnesses, and will promote efficiency.

The plaintiffs in the MDL have now been separated by Judge Jesse Furman into three different categories, on the extent of the injuries they suffered. Category 1 will be used for wrongful death claims involving airbag non-deployment, category 2 claims will include severe personal injury claims involving airbag non-deployment, and category 3 claims will include mild to moderate personal injury claims involving airbag non-deployment.

 There will be 18 bellwether trials from the MDL. Bellwether trials are used to test arguments and hear evidence, in an effort to come to a quick and efficient resolution for all cases in the MDL. The first bellwether trial is scheduled to begin in January 2016, with 5 more being scheduled at later dates in 2016.