General Motors (GM) won the first case tried in the second phase of bellwether trials over its deadly ignition-switch defect that has caused so many problems for so many people. The case ended last month with a verdict for the automaker. The claim in this case involved the revised version of the defective ignition switch, saying it too was defective.
The case was brought by Dennis Ward, whose 2009 Chevrolet HHR was factory-outfitted with an ignition that included a part called the “Catera Spring.” In April 2006, GM replaced the more infamous “Delta Spring” that had been failing for a very long time, causing cars to stall while in motion.
The trial of the Ward case, the first of six planned in a second bellwether round in the multidistrict litigation (MDL), was the first to involve the replacement Catera part. The crash involving Ward took place in 2014. He was driving on a rough road under construction in Tucson, Arizona. Ward says he lost power braking and steering and rear-ended the car in front of him, and was hurt badly in the crash.
Interestingly, six bellwether trials last year – phase one – resulted in only one completed trial. The single verdict came in March in the trial of Plaintiffs Dionne Spain and Lawrence Barthelemy. In that case, a jury found that GM vehicles were unreasonably dangerous, but didn’t find that the Plaintiff’s injuries were caused by the defect in the automaker’s car. Of the five other cases selected for the first bellwether group, one was dismissed by the Plaintiff before trial, one was dropped during trial by a Plaintiff facing claims of falsifying financial documents and three were settled.
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