Jury Clears GM in Arizona Ignition-Switch Suit

GM’s Chevrolet HHR FlexFuel version (Photo by Mario Duran via Wikipedia)

MANHATTAN (CN) — Burnishing a largely unbroken record at trial, General Motors swatted away another ignition-switch liabilities lawsuit on Wednesday, as a federal jury rejected the case of an Arizona fender-bender.

The Detroit-based auto giant’s latest challenge came from Arizona resident Dennis Ward, whose used 2009 Chevrolet HHR rear-ended another driver in Tucson on March 27, 2014.

Ward had blamed the accident on a faulty ignition switch causing his car to lose power, disabling his brakes and steering on a rough patch of road.

His allegations mirrored those found in hundreds of lawsuits that flooded courts across the country, after GM’s recalled 2.5 million of its 2005-10 Chevy Cobalts, Pontiacs, Saturns and other models more than three years ago.

Consolidating the cases in New York, U.S. District Judge Jesse Furman divided them into so-called “bellwether” trials, in which each case represents a category of collisions.

By defeating Ward’s suit on Wednesday, GM has ducked each of the seven cases that has gone to trial.

“In this case, the jury carefully considered the evidence and found that the ignition switch in this car was not defective and played no role in the accident,” the company said in a statement. “The result underlines the fact that each case must be tried on its own merits.”

GM has settled three other bellwether cases before they saw a jury.

Ward’s attorney Diana Gjonaj from the law firm Weitz & Luxenberg did not immediately respond Wednesday to a request for comment.

In 2015, GM paid a $900 million settlement to avoid criminal charges for knowingly putting faulty products on the market rather than spend pennies on replacement parts.

The Center for Auto Safety has attributed more than 300 deaths to the glitch, though GM by contrast estimates that 15 fatalities “may be linked” to the defects.

Meanwhile, few of the drivers have succeeded at drawing such a connection in court.

Last year, Louisiana resident Lawrence Barthelemy failed to convince a jury that the ignition-switch defect was to blame for his injuries in a 15-car pileup on an icy Crescent City Connection Bridge.

Before then, Oklahoma postal worker Robert Scheuer’s case evaporated after GM accused him of perjury.

Two Texas lawsuits filed against GM in state court also ended in the auto giant’s favor.

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