GM Settles Faulty Ignition-Switch Death Case Just Before Trial
General Motors on Thursday said it had agreed to settle a lawsuit that would have been the third case to go to trial over a faulty ignition switch linked to nearly 400 injuries and deaths.
In a letter filed in federal court in Manhattan, GM’s lawyers said the automaker had entered into a confidential settlement with Nadia Yingling, whose lawsuit over her husband’s 2013 death following a car crash was set to go to trial May 2.
It was unclear why GM (GM) decided to settle the case. GM confirmed the deal but offered no further comment. A lawyer for Yingling did not respond to a request for comment.
The deal came a week after GM scored a win in the first case to reach a verdict in a series of six test trials scheduled over the ignition switch.
The switch can slip out of place, causing engines to stall and cutting power to the brake, steering and air bag systems.
Although GM succeeded in last week’s trial in convincing jurors that the ignition switch in question was not responsible for the accident in the case, the jury did conclude the switch was defective.
A prior trial ended without a verdict in January following allegations that the plaintiff gave misleading testimony.
GM has admitted that some of its employees knew about the problems for years, and it has already paid roughly $2 billion in settlement and penalties. It continues to face 235 injury and death lawsuits consolidated before a federal judge in Manhattan.
Unlike the prior two trials, the Yingling case involved a death rather than alleged injuries. It was one of three cases picked by lawyers representing plaintiffs to be a subject of one of the test trials.
The lawsuit centered on the death of James Yingling, a married father of five, following a car crash in Bedford County, Pennsylvania, on Nov. 21, 2013. The suit claimed the accident was the result of a defective ignition system in his 2006 Saturn Ion.
Lawyers for Nadia Yingling, of Alum Bank, Pennsylvania, which is about 115 miles southeast of Pittsburgh, claimed that the defect caused the engine to shut down without warning, instantly disabling the car’s brakes and power steering system and causing her husband to lose control of the car.
The car then collided with a ditch bank and concrete culvert, according to court papers. Yingling died from traumatic brain injury on Dec. 8, 2013, the lawsuit said.
The case is In re General Motors Ignition Switch Litigation, U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, No. 14-2543.