A jury in New York will continue deliberations Wednesday to determine whether a faulty ignition switch was to blame for a 2014 accident involving a General Motors Co. car.
The outcome of the case is expected to help define legal boundaries for hundreds of similar unsettled claims against the Detroit-based automaker in connection to its ignition switch recall crisis involving 2.59 million older cars GM recalled in 2014.
Jurors deliberated for roughly two-and-a-half hours on Tuesday following closing arguments concluding earlier in the day. The trial began March 14 in Manhattan. It is the second of six so-called “bellwether” cases, including one death, that are scheduled to be tried consecutively.
The first trial ended abruptly in January after GM demonstrated the plaintiffs had lied about their finances. The claims against the automaker were dropped.
The current trial is focusing on a January 2014 wreck on an icy New Orleans bridge. Plaintiffs Dionne Spain and Lawrence Barthelemy claim a defective switch prevented Spain’s 2007 Saturn Sky from avoiding a multicar pileup.
GM argues the defect wasn’t to blame, and that the “plaintiffs have presented no evidence from which a reasonable jury could conclude that a defective ignition switch caused their (accident),” according to court documents.
The older cars GM recalled in 2014 were for defective ignition switches that could slip out of the “run” position while driving; that resulted in loss of power steering and the air bags not deploying in crashes.
GM has admitted to using defective ignition switches for years and to hiding the fact from customers and regulators. But the company is challenging suits that it says wrongfully blame the flaw for crashes, injuries and deaths.
An independent victims fund claims administrator hired by GM ultimately tied 124 deaths and hundreds of injuries to the problem.
GM has already paid more than $2 billion to resolve legal issues stemming from the delayed recall, including $900 million to end a criminal probe by the U.S. government; $575 million to settle a shareholder suit and more than 1,380 civil cases by victims; and $595 million through a victims’ compensation fund outside of court.