Lawyers clash over ignition switch claims in 2nd GM case


NEW YORK (AP) — A jury in a New York City trial stemming from the General Motors ignition switch controversy that resulted in millions of recalls ended its first day of deliberations Tuesday without reaching a verdict.

The jury deliberated in Manhattan federal court for more than two hours after hearing a lawyer for a Louisiana man and woman blame a defective ignition switch for a 2014 accident on a New Orleans bridge. A GM lawyer said there was no evidence the ignition switch was to blame.

The trial will be used as a blueprint to define legal boundaries for similar unsettled claims against the automaker, which has issued recalls affecting more than 30 million vehicles since early 2014.

Hundreds of claims remain against the automaker after GM revealed two years ago that it had continued to sell flawed vehicles for more than a decade after discovering an ignition switch defect in Chevy Cobalts and other small cars.

Under certain conditions, the ignition switch can slip out of the on position, making it difficult to steer or stop as the car stalls. GM says it has fixed the problem.

Plaintiffs’ attorney Randall Jackson told jurors there was overwhelming evidence the defect was to blame in the crash.

He said a key chain pulled down by the weight of other keys might have pulled it out of position. And he added that testimony that the car turned off during the accident was “all you need to hear.”

Jackson dismissed GM’s counterarguments, saying: “You will find they don’t make sense.”

General Motors attorney Mike Brock blamed the crash on ice, saying the car’s occupants had no serious injuries and nothing deserving of compensation at trial.

“This accident was not caused by a defective switch,” he said. Brock noted that the only damage to the car was scrapes on a bumper.

In September, GM announced it had settled 1,385 death and injury cases for $275 million and a class-action shareholders’ lawsuit for $300 million.

The company paid nearly $600 million to settle 399 claims made to a fund it established. Those claims covered 124 deaths and 275 injuries. GM’s fund rejected more than 90 percent of the 4,343 claims it received, according to figures the company released in December.