General Motors spent a lot of time in the spotlight in 2014 for failing to correct a defect in the faulty ignition switches in their vehicles. The defect would spontaneously flip off, which cut power to air bags as well as other vital functions. Because of this, 124 people lost their lives and another 275 were injured. GM knew about the fatal issue for over a decade and chose to do nothing about it, as recalls and repairs would cause their profits and sales to take a nosedive.
They have now been forced to pay almost $600 million in settlements to the families involved in the accidents and another $575 million for other related lawsuits. The U.S. Justice Department also slapped them with a hefty $900 million fine in a criminal settlement.
HEADED FOR COURT
While most of the victims’ families have handled matters and received settlements outside of the courtroom, several hundred opted to take on the auto giant in court. The first case was highly anticipated and watchful eyes were waiting to determine if this case would prove a successful early test of the claims, signaling that GM could be beaten in court. But the case collapsed almost before it even began.
Robert Scheuer, a postal worker in Oklahoma, saw his case crumble after questions were raised about the truthfulness to his accusations that the ignition-switch defect in his Chevy Cobalt prevented his air bags from deploying during a car accident in 2014 when he hit a tree. He and his wife also claim that they lost their “dream house” because Scheuer suffered memory loss in the accident, causing him to lose the check they were planning on buying a house with.
Quickly after the trial started, an Oklahoma realtor contradicted the couple, telling GM the real reason the couple didn’t get the house was because they presented an altered check when asked to produce proof of funds. GM took that evidence to court, accusing Scheuer of check forgery, real estate fraud and perjury, forcing him to drop the case.
"We said all along that each case would be decided on its own merits, and we had already started to show by strong, clear and convincing evidence to the jury that the ignition switch didn't have anything to do with Mr. Scheuer's accident or injuries," GM released in a statement. "The apparent lies the plaintiff and his wife told the jury ended the trial early, and we are pleased that the case is over without any payment whatsoever to the Mr. Scheuer."
Scheuer's attorney, Robert Hilliard, has been the leader of the attack on GM and winning this case would have laid the groundwork for his upcoming ones, but he is not discouraged. "To have any trial end in such an unexpected and unforeseen way is disappointing, especially one such as this where the concerns regarding the underlying safety of certain GM's vehicles are legitimate and real," he said. "A jury's decision regarding the existence of a defect will have to wait until the next trial." Hilliard will still bring the other cases to trial.
READY TO HELP
If you have been the victim of a car accident, whether due to a manufacturer defect or not, the attorneys of Godsey Martin, P.C., are here to get you the settlement you deserve. Call them today at 1-877-IGOTHIT or contact them online.