In one of the largest auto recall cases in recent memory, General Motors now faces hundreds of lawsuits related to a faulty ignition switch installed in more than 30 million cars worldwide. Disturbingly, there is evidence that GM knew about the issue as early as 2005, yet intentionally failed to recall the part at a cost of roughly 90 cents per car. GM has officially linked the ignition switch to at least 124 deaths, although they face many, many more injury and wrongful death suits.
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Bellwether Trial Begins
The first case to be heard in court is a so-called bellwether case – essentially a way for both plaintiff’s attorneys and defense lawyers to test out the effectiveness of their arguments. This trial involves the case of Robert Scheuer, 49, who suffered neck and back injuries after a faulty ignition switch prevented his airbag from deploying. This case is one of six bellwether trials picked by both defense and plaintiff’s attorneys.
GM Resorts to “Blaming the Victim” Tactics
January 14, 2016 marked the second day of testimony in the case, and saw GM portray the victim as an abuser of prescription drugs. Although plaintiff’s attorneys objected to GM’s references to Scheuer’s prescription painkiller use, the judge ultimately ruled that his use of painkillers may be relevant to whether or not he suffered injury. GM may not directly suggest that the medication was to blame for the accident, but plaintiff’s attorneys state that the automaker is implying this to “unfairly damage [the] plaintiff’s character.”
An Important Precedent
The outcome of this trial could play a large role in trials to come. If the defense is successful, they may resort to similar tactics in future cases to deny victims a fair payout. If the plaintiffs win, GM may opt to settle more of these cases out of court, rather than risk a costly and uncertain trial.
GM has actually already settled a large number of lawsuits, but is denying liability in many other cases. They have also been hit with large penalties related to both civil and criminal investigations, totaling over $900 million.
If you have been injured due to the negligence of another driver or auto manufacturer, call our West Virginia personal injury attorneys at (304) 232-8888.