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Judge Sets Criteria for Choosing GM Bellwether Trials

2 comments

In June 2014, the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) consolidated all federal General Motors (GM) ignition switch defect lawsuits into one court in the Southern District of New York. Later that year, Judge Jesse M. Furman scheduled the first bellwether trials to begin in early 2016.

In a more recent order signed February 6, 2015, the judge established the process for choosing the bellwether cases. A small number of these will serve as early trials meant to determine how juries may react to the evidence. Often, bellwether trials open the doors to future settlement negotiations between the parties.

Judge Sets Criteria for GM Bellwether Trial Selection

In an effort to ensure these initial trials will be true representations of the other cases in the GM MDL, the judge has set limits on the criteria for selection. These limits include:

• Cases must include ignition-switch claims involving accidents occurring on or after July 11, 2009.
• Cases must include only vehicles involved in the initial GM recalls. Eligible vehicles include the Chevrolet Cobalt (2005-2007), Pontiac G5 (2007), Saturn Ion (2003-2007), Pontiac Solstice (2006-2007), Chevrolet HHR (2006-2007), and Saturn Sky (2007).

The judge also ordered that all potential bellwether cases must be limited to “core” claims and types of vehicles, and that all eligible claims must include failure of air bags to deploy (caused by the ignition switch being turned to the “off” position). Claims will be divided into three categories:

1. Category I: wrongful death claims
2. Category II: severe personal injury claims
3. Category IIII: mild to moderate personal injury claims

He ordered the parties to meet and confer regarding how “severe” and “mild to moderate” injuries are to be classified.

What Constitutes a “Severe” Injury?

In a follow-up order signed February 27, 2015, the judge further classified the categories of claims. After the parties met to discuss the differences between severe and mild to moderate injuries, they proposed the following classification, which the court approved:

• Claims shall be classified under category II (severe injury) if the victim suffered a skeletal or bone fracture requiring surgery, spinal injury requiring surgery, traumatic brain injury resulting in a Glasgow Coma Scale score of 12 or lower, limb amputation, cut or laceration resulting in permanent and significant scars or disfigurement, second or third degree burns on more than 10 percent of the body, paraplegia, quadriplegia, blindness or visual impairment lasting for one week or more, brachial plexus injury, and nerve damage or other injury that prevents him or her from performing normal daily activities.
• Claims that don’t fit into category I or II shall be classified as category III claims.

So far, about 165 GM ignition switch lawsuits are pending in New York, all involving allegations that the ignition switch turned to the “off” position on its own. When this occurred during an accident, it could rob the air bags of power, preventing their deployment and potentially resulting in serious injuries and deaths.

GM has recalled millions of vehicles worldwide because of the defect. At last count, they had deemed 57 wrongful death claims eligible for payment through an independent settlement fund.

2 Comments

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  1. Ryan Bojanowski says:
    up arrow

    I was in an accidnet on October 13, 2014. I was hit by the faulted party and was driving a 2006 Saturn Ion. The accident was almost a head on collision and the impact made me damage the steering with my head. The accident caused me to have a concussion and muscle tenderness. For two weeks my tongue felt like it was burnt to a crisp even though their was no physical damage done to it and I lost my ability to quickly and efficently do basic proccesses such as spelling, typing, basic math, memory and other cognitive functions. I was unable to afford a Neurologist and was referred to go immediately. I still am not back to normal and just found out that the recall for my car effected the air bags. The dealerships were sold out for me to get a repair done months before my accident.

  2. Ryan Bojanowski says:
    up arrow

    I was in an accident on October 13, 2014. I was hit by the faulted party and was driving a 2006 Saturn Ion. The accident was almost a head on collision and the impact made me damage the steering with my head. The accident caused me to have a concussion and muscle tenderness. For two weeks my tongue felt like it was burnt to a crisp even though there was no physical damage done to it and I lost my ability to quickly and efficiently do basic processes such as spelling, typing, basic math, memory and other cognitive functions. I was unable to afford a Neurologist and was referred to go immediately. I still am not back to normal and just found out that the recall for my car affected the air bags. The dealerships were sold out for me to get a repair done months before my accident.