September 28, 2020

Plaintiffs culled, but defect claims advance against GM

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GM-Headquarters-1By Amanda Bronstad, From The National Law Journal

A federal judge in has allowed a consolidated consumer class action to go forward against General Motors Co. over its ignition switch recalls—although on a limited basis.

U.S. District Judge Jesse Furman of the Southern District of New York ruled on Friday that briefing should be deferred for the claims of most of the 68 named plaintiffs in the class action until U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Robert Gerber decides whether the terms of ’s 2009 bankruptcy barred them entirely. But he allowed claims to proceed for nine plaintiffs who bought cars made after 2009.

During a hearing on Monday, lawyers came up with a briefing schedule for those claims.

“It means that there are millions of people whose claims are still held up in bankruptcy court,” said lead counsel Steve Berman, managing partner of Seattle’s Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro. “That’s a delay, but part of the case is going forward.”

GM spokesman James Cain declined to comment.

GM has been targeted with more than 160 lawsuits over an ignition switch defect that prompted recalls of 2.6 million cars and trucks worldwide earlier this year. Some involve deaths and injuries but most have been class actions filed by consumers.

On Oct. 14, plaintiffs attorneys filed two consolidated class actions on behalf of 30 million consumers nationwide.

Both allege that GM’s record recalls, including those for the ignition switch defect, have caused all its cars and trucks to diminish in value. One complaint aims to represent consumers who bought or leased their GM vehicles before July 11, 2009—when today’s reorganized GM acquired old GM’s bankruptcy assets. GM has filed a brief in U.S. Bankruptcy Court to bar those claims; plaintiffs attorneys were expected to file their response today.

The second class complaint seeks to represent consumers who bought or leased between July 11, 2009, and July 3, 2014.

GM moved on Nov. 25 to halt all briefing in the latter case, which was “packed with plaintiffs who acquired used old GM vehicles,” according to attorney , a partner at Chicago’s Kirkland & Ellis.

In its brief, GM argued that 39 named plaintiffs had bought cars made before 2009 and another 20 involved those whose manufacturing date was uncertain. GM also sought to halt briefing on the claims of nine plaintiffs who bought cars made after its bankruptcy. Lead plaintiffs attorneys acquiesced as to the 39 but sought to move forward on many of the others based on the dates on which those individuals purchased their cars after 2009.

Furman agreed with GM that the critical date was when the vehicles were made, not when customers bought them—making them potentially subject to the bankruptcy court’s ruling.

Plaintiffs who can pursue claims have cited the laws of Arkansas, California, Florida, Maryland, Oklahoma, Virginia and Washington, D.C. Berman said GM has agreed to provide information by the end of the year to determine whether additional plaintiffs who bought 2010 cars should be included.

He said plaintiffs attorneys also have alleged claims under the laws of Michigan, where GM is headquartered. They have until Jan. 5 to submit a list of states that could govern the claims going forward.

Meanwhile, about 200 additional claims have been filed with GM’s victim compensation fund since administrator Kenneth Feinberg extended the deadline to Jan. 31. The fund is designed to compensate people who were injured or killed because of the defect. A month ago, 2,105 claims had been filed with the fund—although only 72 were deemed eligible for payment, including 33 involving deaths.

On Monday, the fund reported that 100 of the 2,326 claims filed were eligible, of which 42 involved deaths. The figures also showed that claims lacking documentation fell by about 200 during the past month.

IMAGE: General Motors Headquarters in Detroit, Michigan.

For more on this story go to: http://www.nationallawjournal.com/id=1202681229279/Plaintiffs-Culled-but-Defect-Claims-Advance-Against-GM#ixzz3MAqtfIMi

 

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