[JURIST] A federal jury in Manhattan on Wednesday found that a defective ignition switch in a General Motors (GM) [corporate website] vehicle was not to blame for a 2014 accident. The jurors deliberated [Reuters report] for less than a day to determine that although the faulty ignition switch made the 2007 Saturn Sky unreasonably dangerous and GM failed to properly warn consumers of the safety risks, the switch was not at fault in this accident, therefore awarding no damages to the plaintiffs. The faulty switches were the subject a delayed recall which has been tied [Detroit News report] to 124 deaths. The switches had the potential to “slip out of the ‘run’ position” while driving which would cause loss of power steering and not allowing the airbags to deploy. In this case the two plaintiffs had claimed that they suffered back pain and other injuries when the switch slipped out of position, but GM said that the accident was minor and the result of slippery roads. The jury rather quickly found that the accident was due to the icy conditions and not the ignition switch.
This was the first trial regarding the faulty switches to reach a verdict after GM recalled millions of cars that contained the part. GM has already settled [JURIST report] for $900 million with the Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website] to stop a criminal probe by the US, $575 million to settle a shareholder suit and more than 1,380 civil cases by victims, and $595 million through a victims’ compensation fund outside of court. In recent years other car manufacturers have also faced legal issues for allegedly failing to address malfunctions. The US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) announced [JURIST report] in July that it imposed a $105 million penalty against Fiat Chrysler [corporate website] for its failure to provide a remedy and notices for 23 recalls related to automobile malfunctions. In 2014 the DOJ announced a $1.2 billion settlement [JURIST report] agreement with Toyota for misleading customers and US regulators. In November 2012 Toyota settled [JURIST report] a class action lawsuit for $35.5 million brought by its shareholders failing to disclose vehicle quality issues.