— General Motors has won an ignition switch trial in front of New York federal jury members who heard evidence in the case of Dennis Ward, the driver of a 2009 Chevrolet HHR that crashed in March 2014, allegedly because of a defective ignition switch.
Ward claimed he crashed into a Ford Explorer and suffered from a ruptured tendon, even though he was allegedly pushing the brake pedal to the floor while trying to steer away from the Explorer.
Ward claimed he couldn't control the Chevy HHR because driving on a rough section of road caused the ignition switch to move out of its "run" position and kill all power to the HHR.
Ward alleged that one day after the crash, GM expanded a previous ignition switch recall to include his Chevy HHR. The previous recall involved "423 switches" and the expanded recall was for vehicles that had received different 423 switches. However, Ward's vehicle was equipped with an updated "190 switch" not considered defective, yet Ward still blamed the crash and his injuries on the ignition switch.
GM argued the HHR 190 switch contained a longer spring and detent plunger assembly, therefore making the switch safe and not prone to move out of the run position. Attorneys for GM said Ward was to blame for the crash because he wasn't paying attention to the road and his surroundings.
The jury heard evidence that while Ward blamed the switch for the crash, he never said anything to the police or the other driver about any problems with the brakes or steering. In addition, the police report indicates Ward admitted the crash was his fault and that he would pay for any damage to the other car.
Things also took a downturn for Ward when the jury learned he kept driving the HHR after the crash and even used the vehicle to drag race. Then there was the issue of the vehicle being recalled in 2014, yet Ward kept driving the HHR without getting it repaired.
Ward's case is one of six test (bellwether) trials out of more than 200 cases involving the 190 switch, and the results couldn't have been better for GM. According to the automaker, the jury sent a clear message that each case will be tried on its own merits.