Lieff Cabraser Civil Justice Blog
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Experts Say GM Bellwether Win In Ignition Switch Defect Trial Not A Likely Predictor of Future Case Outcomes

While GM won a victory in July 2017’s seventh and most recent bellwether trial over deadly ignition switch defects in GM vehicles, legal experts are saying such victories are far from a guarantee of future success for the automaker, which faces a myriad of additional lawsuits over allegedly defective GM vehicle ignition switches.

Bellwether Trials Are “Outlier” Cases

As reported by the New York Law Journal, “The problem with bellwethers in the GM litigation is that GM and the plaintiffs were allowed to pick which cases they wanted to bring to trial, which she said leads to each side picking the ‘outlier cases’ that they believe they can win at trial, rather than those that would be representative of the entire universe of cases.” This according to University of Connecticut School of Law professor Alexandra Lahav. “GM’s track record so far in the bellwether cases has not been illustrative of the results of the thousands of cases involving GM’s ignition switches, which were linked to 124 deaths and thousands of injuries,” stated Ms. Lahav.

Bellwether trials in mass tort cases have become increasingly popular, and in addition to resolving the merits of individual cases are utilized as a method for parties to leverage settlement in other future cases. But the way such bellwether cases are selected in the first place – “best case” scenarios selected by each respective side — means they often do not accurately reflect the total case pool at large.

“What the numbers indicate,” Lahav told the New York Law Journal, “is that GM has ‘won a few cases.” The company “has done a great job of litigating these cases. That’s clear… At the same time, they might be shooting fish in a barrel.” It remains to be seen how GM – and the plaintiffs – will fare as the trials move forward onto the greater range of cases over drivers and passengers injured and killed in accidents involving the allegedly defective ignition switches.

The NYLJ also highlighted GM’s 2015 announcement that it would be paying $575 million to settle over 1,300 of the outstanding driver and passenger personal injury and death suits.

Read the full New York Law Journal article (subscription).

GM Ignition Defect Injury Attorneys at Lieff Cabraser

Automakers have a legal duty to produce cars that are safe, and promptly correct any known safety defects. Damages in personal injury lawsuits against auto manufacturers for selling defective vehicles with safety flaws include damages for.

  • Past and future physical pain and suffering, mental anguish and physical impairment;
  • Past and future medical, incidental and hospital expenses;
  • Past and future loss of earnings and earning capacity; and
  • Punitive damages in cases of egregious misconduct.

If the driver or occupant was killed, surviving family members may file a wrongful death lawsuit.

Lieff Cabraser has successfully represented individuals across the United States injured in car accidents due to safety defects in the vehicles. Learn more about the GM Faulty Ignition Recall here.