We’re not quite sure we’d use the phrase “sometimes, accidents just happen” in a trial stemming from a deadly car defect. However, that’s the tactic General Motors is going with in the second trial over its faulty ignition switches. The case is another one, however, with its share of questions about what caused the crash and how the plaintiffs actually received their injuries.
Two plaintiffs, a man and a woman, say GM’s faulty ignition switch caused their 2014 accident on an icy bridge in Louisiana. The woman says she lost her steering and brakes and that the car’s ignition switch contributed to the crash. Both plaintiffs received minor injuries at the time and only later reported other injuries. They’re seeking unspecified compensatory damages for the cost of their medical care.
GM’s lawyer Mike Brock argues that for one, ice, not a faulty ignition switch, caused the crash. Two, he says evidence will show the injuries they later reported were not related to the January 2014 crash at all, but other factors. Brock says the plaintiffs were wearing their seat belts, and the only damage to the car was some scrapes on a bumper. The car wasn’t even moving fast enough to trigger the airbag, according to the attorney.
“Every accident is not somebody’s fault. This accident is not GM’s fault,” Brock said. “This is a case about a car that didn’t even have a dent on it.”
The plaintiffs’ lawyer, Randall Jackson, says the case is about a pattern of “broken promises by a broken company.”
“A car is a promise, two tons of steel with an engine, wrapped in a promise: safe transportation,” Jackson said. “The evidence in the case is going to show that GM, the company defending this case, broke that promise.”
GM has five liability trials coming up this year. They are all important because they will help define legal boundaries and set precedents for how the remaining 1,700 personal injury and wrongful death cases will be handled. The first trial ended abruptly midstream when GM revealed the plaintiffs had lied about their finances.
The cases stem from faulty ignition switches that led GM to recall millions of vehicles in 2014. GM knew about the problem linked to a number of deaths for more than a decade. Despite finally coming clean about it, GM is arguing hundreds of accident claims aren’t related to the defect.