The federal judge in Manhattan who oversees the cases said this week he would stick to the plan to try five more early test cases this year against General Motors’ faulty ignition switches.
Lawyers for plaintiffs suing the automaker for its defective ignition switches sent a letter last week to the US District Judge Jesse Furman, who oversees the cases, saying that going to trial on the remaining cases set for this year may not be the most efficient way to advance the resolution of hundreds of remaining injury and death claims. General Motors disputed their request, arguing that the current plan was working as intended. During a hearing on Tuesday, Furman said he intended “to stay the course” and try the remaining five bellwether cases scheduled in the federal litigation process for this year. But Furman acknowledged that the bellwether process was not perfect and said he remained open to alternatives, including adding recently filed cases to the trial slate. A lead lawyer for GM plaintiffs, Elizabeth Cabraser, said she and her co-counsel were encouraged by Furman’s willingness to consider “refinements, alternatives and additions to the bellwether process.” GM spokesman Jim Cain said the company was pleased that Furman had agreed to stick with the current bellwether process.
The carmaker’s faulty switches are linked to nearly 400 injuries and deaths and GM has paid around 2 billion dollars in related penalties and settlements. The first federal trial was dismissed in January following allegations that the plaintiff gave false testimony to jurors. The next one is set to begin next month and, additionally, a dozen cases are set to go to trial in state courts between May and November, Furman said during the hearing this week.