— The judge in the first of six General Motors ignition switch trials has stepped in and told both parties to settle the matter and end it.
In what is known as a test trial, or bellwether trial, Oklahoma mailman Robert Scheuer sued GM alleging the ignition switch in his car failed and caused him injuries because the airbag didn't deploy. GM's argument is simple: The airbags aren't designed to deploy in a crash of this type.
Argued in front of U.S. District Judge Jesse Furman in Manhattan, GM attorney Mike Brock pounded away on just about every claim of Scheuer.
According to Scheuer, he suffered serious back and neck injuries in a 2014 crash involving his 2003 Saturn Ion. Mr. Scheuer claims another driver ran him off the road and caused the Ion to crash, causing serious back problems. Scheuer says he was unconscious for three hours until someone finally found the car.
Scheuer claims the crash caused him financial problems and the loss of his "dream home," a claim that has turned into a nightmare for Scheuer and his wife.
GM introduced evidence that suggests Scheuer lied about that dream house, something the judge said if true means the "plaintiff and perhaps his wife have committed a fraud on this court." Mr. and Mrs. Scheuer might be the plaintiffs bringing the action against GM, but the words of the judge have caused the couple to hire their own criminal defense attorneys.
The damning words from the judge relates to allegedly forged documents concerning the "dream home" Scheuer says he lost because of the crash. Judge Furman said it appears the documents were "doctored" by Scheuer, which casts doubt on Scheuer's other claims.
GM has constantly questioned the credibility of Scheuer and his wife and this latest revelation seems to have convinced the judge that serious questions about their credibility do exist.
Scheuer's attorney Bob Hilliard said GM is trying to take the focus off the ignition switch defect, but the judge said he thought Hilliard and others should have vetted their client better.
Although this may be the final blow to Scheuer's case, the first blows were thrown early when GM hinted that Scheuer was not telling the truth from the beginning.
- Scheuer says his Saturn Ion was run off the road by another car, but GM introduced evidence from accident investigators that indicates the Ion left the road slowly, as if the driver fell asleep.
- Scheuer said he was unconscious for about three hours in the wrecked car, but GM presented phone records that showed Scheuer called his voicemail twice during the time he was injured and unconscious.
- Scheuer claims the accident caused severe back pain and problems, but GM's attorney proved the back problems existed for years before the crash. When presented with the evidence, Scheuer admitted he took the same amount of pain medication after the crash as he did prior to the accident.
Although Scheuer claims his injuries caused a severe disability, the judge said the evidence "would seem to indicate that Mr. Scheuer was much more functional physically during the months after his accident than he and his wife suggested or claimed in their testimony."
Scheuer also admits he has no reason to believe the Saturn Ion didn't have power steering and power brakes when the it went off the road, something GM says proves the ignition switch was working correctly.
Saying the trial is "almost worthless as a settlement tool," the judge urged both sides to settle the case so the court can move to the next five bellwether trials.
Update: Case closed. Attorneys for both sides decided to call off the lawsuit based on Mr. Scheuer's allegedly false claims.