GM compensation fund approves 52nd death claim

David Shepardson
Detroit News Washington Bureau

General Motors Co.’s ignition switch compensation program said Monday it has approved one new death claim and two new injury claims over the past week. That brings the total of approved claims to 52 deaths and 79 injuries, including eight claims for people who were seriously injured.

The report also said another 57 claims were mailed in the final days before the Jan. 31 deadline, bringing the total number to 4,237, including 462 death claims.

The surge in claims before the Jan. 31 deadline means the program will spend until at least “very late spring” before it can rule on all the claims, the fund run by compensation lawyer Ken Feinberg said last week.

Feinberg has said it could take as long as six months from the time the program received the final claim for serious injuries or deaths. Hundreds of the final claims were submitted with little or no paperwork, making it difficult to assess how many may be deemed valid.

Biros said last week the program has made 93 settlement offers; 40 have been paid and 49 accepted; none have been officially rejected. The program has determined that 482 of the claims are ineligible, including one that sought compensation for a dog that died, and another seeking funds for an early 1960s Chevrolet.

GM set up the fund to compensate those hurt and the families of those killed in 2.59 million now-recalled Chevrolet Cobalts, Saturn Ions and other cars with ignition switches that can inadvertently shut off the engine and disable power steering and air bags. GM delayed recalling the cars for nearly a decade after some within the company became aware there was a problem.

Feinberg has said all approved death claims will get at least $1 million. Based on the initial claims received and payments made, GM is not expected to see its costs top that range, but there are still hundreds of claims that haven’t been reviewed.

Last week, GM said it has paid $93 million through its compensation program for those killed or injured as a result of defective ignition switches, according to a regulatory filing released Wednesday.

The company also said it can’t predict how much a series of government investigations into its delayed ignition switch recall may cost.

GM previously said it expected the independent program to cost the company $400 million, but that it could be as much as $600 million. The company booked $315 million at the end of 2014 to pay for potential liabilities connected with the compensation program. The payouts so far are for claimants deemed eligible by Feinberg and do not include payments for his services, a GM spokesman said.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Manhattan, aided by the FBI and a federal grand jury, has been investigating GM’s delayed recall of 2.6 million vehicles for more than 10 months. The Securities and Exchange Commission and 49 state attorneys are investigating, GM said — one more state than previously disclosed. Canadian officials are also investigating.