Wednesday, November 18, 2015 - There will be a single lawsuit before the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation in two weeks attempting to be consolidated into the ongoing General Motors (GM) ignition switch MDL in the Southern District of New York federal court. The litigation, which was transferred into multidistrict litigation in June of 2014, has also reached another benchmark as a federal judge ruled that plaintiffs would be entitled to punitive damages from GM if they chose to pursue them in court.
The issue at the center of the lawsuits came from malfunctioning ignition switches in GM vehicles. The switches would move out of the ‘run‘ position during a crash, causing the airbags not to deploy. The deaths linked to the ignition defect has been connected to over 100 deaths and 200 injuries, with more allegations coming forward as the litigation spreads word of the connection between the crashes and the ignition defect.
The complaint filed in the multidistrict litigation proceedings is seeking upwards of $10 billion in damages in connection with the ignition switch lawsuits. Plaintiffs are seeking financial restitution not only to help with injuries incurred as a result of the ignition switch defects, but also in hopes of recouping money lost in automobile value after discovering their vehicle was affected by the issue.
Though the multidistrict litigation is still pending, GM did already pay a $35 million fine that also brought along with it their acknowledgment of failing to promptly alert the proper regulatory bodies of the ignition problems.
More than 2.5 million vehicles were recalled in 2014 in relation to the ignition switch problem. A GM commissioned report prompted a push for the recall to take place as well as many other changes, including staff restructuring at GM and a new set of standards for the company‘s safety policies. The report, however, did absolve all high-ranking executives of any wrongdoing, claiming that the problem came from lower employees exhibiting a "pattern of incompetence and neglect."
GM has paid out more than $2 billion thus far following the discovery of the ignition switch failures. There have been claims of wire-fraud, failure to disclose safety measures, and even allegations that GM conspired with international law firm King & Spalding in an attempt to cover up the ignition switch information from becoming public. The company has fallen more than 15 percent over the last year, largely due to the economic fallout of the ignition switch issue and the more than 2 million vehicles that had to be fixed pursuant to the massive recall the auto maker had to make in the wake of the ignition problems.
U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara who brought the federal charges against GM claims that there may remain legal action to be taken against the company, including the possibility of individual criminal charges against those responsible for allegedly covering up the evidence of the serious safety hazards posed by the ignition switches. Bharara believes there are example throughout the history of the ignition switch scandal.