General Motors (GM) has settled the third of six lawsuits picked to be tried as bellwether cases for deaths and injuries stemming from its defective ignition switches, which put millions of its vehicles at risk of suddenly losing power and crashing without airbag protection.
GM’s lawyers filed a letter in federal court in Manhattan Thursday saying it had entered into a confidential settlement with plaintiff Nadia Yingling, who sued the automaker in 2013 after her husband James was killed when his 2006 Saturn Ion lost power and crashed on a Pennsylvania highway.
Ms. Yingling’s case had been set to go to trial May 2. It was one of three cases chosen by plaintiffs’ lawyers to be tried ahead of the larger body of multi-district litigation (MDL) consolidated for trial in New York City. Lawyers for the defense also selected three of the bellwether cases.
James Yingling was driving to work from his home south of Pittsburgh to a contract job in Maryland in November 2013 when his Saturn rounded a curve and barreled into a ditch. Mr. Yingling survived the crash initially but succumbed to a traumatic brain injury two weeks later.
Investigators couldn’t determine what caused the crash. The weather had been clear and there were no adverse road conditions. Drug and alcohol tests came back clean.
Then, the following April, Ms. Yingling received a recall notice from GM notifying her that the 2006 Saturn Ion, among several other models, contained a defective ignition switch that could cause the vehicles to lose steering, brakes, and airbag protection.
Ms. Yingling filed one of the earliest wrongful-death lawsuits against GM, accusing the company of an elaborate decade-long scheme of covering up the deadly defect.
The Yingling settlement came one week after GM won the second case to be tried. That case was one the automaker’s attorneys had selected for bellwether trial.
The first bellwether, a case also selected by plaintiffs’ lawyers, ended in January without a verdict amid allegations that the plaintiff had given misleading testimony.
GM’s defective ignition switch, which allows the ignition key to slip out of the “run” position under certain circumstances, has been linked to nearly 400 injuries and deaths.