GM fund approves three new injury claims to 269

David Shepardson
Detroit News Washington Bureau

General Motors ignition compensation fund said Monday it has approved three new injury claims and no new death claims as the fund plans to complete its review by the end of the month.

The fund run by lawyer Ken Feinberg said it has now approved 393 total claims — including 269 injury claims and 124 death claims. Of those injury claims, 18 are for serious injuries and 251 are for less severe injuries.

The fund processed about 170 claims last week, leaving just 285 listed as "deficient" — without a final determination. Of those, 12 are death claims and 14 for serious injuries..

GM is paying at least $1 million in each death claim and has set aside $550 million to pay claims.

GM compensation fund deputy director Camille Biros said Monday that the fund has made 319 offers — including 95 for deaths — and 227 have been accepted, while six have been rejected and 86 are outstanding.

The automaker initially said last year that 13 deaths were related to 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 even after some within the company became aware there was a problem.

GM stopped updating its own count of deaths or injuries related to the issue last year.

The U.S. Justice Department is nearing a decision on whether to charge GM criminally in connection with the delay — and could seek to require a guilty plea or offer a “deferred prosecution” agreement — along with a fine expected to top $1.2 billion. A decision is expected by the end of summer or fall.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Manhattan is being aided by a federal grand jury, the FBI, 50 state attorneys general, the Securities and Exchange Commission and Transport Canada in an investigation of GM’s delayed recall, which led to the firings of 15 GM employees last year.

In total, 4,342 claims were submitted by the Jan. 31 deadline, including 474 death claims — which was extended by a month over the initial plan. A total of 3,664 claims have been ruled ineligible, including 338 deaths.

Biros said earlier this month that those “deficient” claims will get a final review before the fund is finished.

“We are moving quickly now to make final determinations — so these will quickly be moved to eligible/ ineligible buckets,” Biros said this month.

Neither GM nor the fund have disclosed any concrete details about who has been approved for compensation or demographic characteristics of those approved.

The first trial stemming from the dozens of suits filed against GM and consolidated in front of a federal judge in New York is set to start in January. Lawyers are deposing dozens of current and former GM executives, including GM CEO Mary Barra set for October and former CEO Rick Wagoner in September.

It’s not clear if federal prosecutors will seek to charge individual GM employees.

Some Wall Street analysts have speculated GM may have to pay a fine to resolve the investigations that could top $2 billion. GM in May 2014 paid a $35 million fine to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to resolve its investigation and agreed to up to three years of intense monitoring. Last month, NHTSA said it was extending the monitoring until at least May 2016.