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Judge rules two plaintiffs don't have evidence that ignition switches caused Chevy Cobalt crashes.

Posted in News

Two More GM Ignition Switch Lawsuits Tossed Out
Judge rules two plaintiffs don't have evidence that ignition switches caused Chevy Cobalt crashes.

— General Motors has won two more ignition switch lawsuits before they reached the trial stage as the judge ruled evidence against the automaker was lacking.

Both cases are considered "bellwethers," or test cases that could indicate how future rulings could come down in similar lawsuits. General Motors has done pretty well with the bellwethers, winning three during trials.

Other cases were a mess, such as one where the lawsuit was dropped after the plaintiff was caught lying. Additional lawsuits were settled by GM and the plaintiffs, but the terms were made private.

General Motors spent at least 10 years selling millions of cars with defective ignition switches that could move out of the "run" positions and into the "accessory" or "off" positions with a simple bump of the knee to the keys or key rings. Even a heavy key ring could cause the switch to move if the car hit a bump in the road.

With the switch out of the run position, the car would suddenly shut off and if the switch moved to the "off" position, all power was lost to the car. Power brakes, power steering and airbag function was lost, but these two specific cases involved crashes where the airbags deployed as intended.

Both dismissed cases involve Texas crashes of Chevy Cobalt cars, one concerning 19-year-old Vivian Garza in a 2011 crash on an icy road. The other lawsuit involved Ruby Greenroad, who was driving a Cobalt when the 2013 crash occurred.

The judge didn't buy the arguments the ignition switches could have moved out of the “run” positions to the “accessory” or “off” positions when the crashes occurred. The plaintiffs tried to convince the judge the ignition switches at the least made the crashes worse than they should have been.

U.S. District Judge Jesse Furman ruled the plaintiffs couldn't produce even one expert witness to provide evidence of a double rotation of the ignition switch. The "double rotation" hypothesis alleges the ignition switch moved out of the "run" position while driving and left the driver without power steering and power brakes.

This caused a sudden loss of control, but according to the belief in double rotation, the ignition switch moved back to the "run" position before the car crashed. The plaintiffs say this explains why the airbags deployed in the crash, but the judge says there is no evidence of such a thing ever occurring.

GM will see the wins as proof of how car owners are grasping for straws in an attempt to get money out of the automaker after it paid $595 million in compensation for 124 deaths and 275 injuries.

In a separate lawsuit not included in the multidistrict litigation, GM settled a lawsuit filed by the family of 19-year-old Paige Garneau, who was killed in a stolen 2010 Chevrolet Impala in New Hampshire. Terms of the settlement are private, but details of the crash are known.

The car had been reported stolen by the father of the driver, Robert Pitts Jr., and as the police chased the car, Pitts lost control of the Impala and crashed into a curb and then into trees, killing Page Garneau in the crash.

Pitts was sentenced to 5-10 years in prison for his role in the crash, but Garneau's family accused GM in their daughter's death because of the airbag failing to deploy.

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