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GM Settles Pair of Ignition-Switch Cases, Faces Thousands More in Massive MDL


Plaintiffs in two separate federal bellwether cases against General Motors (GM) have won their claims against the automobile manufacturer and its faulty ignition switches. The settlements involve two women who were seriously injured while driving at low speeds and suddenly lost control of their vehicles.

In one case in Virginia, Stephanie Cockram was behind the wheel of a 2006 Chevrolet Cobalt heading home after visiting a friend on June 28, 2011. Cockram hit a wall when she no longer was able to steer her car and suffered a broken jaw, a broken hip and a head injury. In the second case in Kentucky, Amy Norville was swerving to avoid a deer that had run into the roadway on Nov. 21, 2013. Norville crashed her 2003 Saturn ION into a tree and broke her sternum and fractured her neck. In both instances, the airbags did not deploy.

"Head On Collision" by Damnsoft 09

Bob Hilliard, the women’s attorney, said even though the dollar amount of the compensation and damages was not disclosed, the settlements are a sign the multidistrict litigation (MDL) against GM is moving swiftly.

“Judge (Jesse M.) Furman’s insistence that the parties keep a ‘fair but aggressive’ pace allowed for one of the single biggest MDLs in U.S. history to reach this point in only 2 short years,” Hilliard told USA Today. “Its complexity and massiveness cannot be overstated.”

The hardware defect in the ignition switches resulted in a 2014 recall of 2.6 million compact and small cars, including the Cobalt and the ION, as well as the Chevrolet HHR, the Pontiac G5 and Solstice and the Saturn Sky. However, evidence shows GM knew about the issue years before consumers were ever alerted. Nearly 125 deaths and 275 injuries have been linked to the problem, and the lawsuits number in the thousands.

Out of court, GM has paid settlements of close to $875 million in 1,385 cases. Most of the money was distributed via a victims’ fund set up by the corporation. Plaintiffs who chose to have their day in court are part of the MDL.

GM spokesman Jim Cain told NBC News three more federal bellwether cases will go to trial in 2017, with a fourth in January 2018.

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