A fourth bellwether trial that will help determine the course of litigation for hundreds of lawsuits seeking damages from General Motors (GM) allegedly caused by defective ignition switches opened Monday, July 10, in New York.
In the newest trial, plaintiff Dennis Ward claims the ignition defect that GM concealed for years caused his Chevrolet HHR to crash in Tucson, Arizona. He alleges the March 2014 crash left him with a permanent leg injury.
According to the New York Law Journal, Mr. Ward claims in court documents that he was traveling on South Kolb Rd. in Tucson when he noticed a car ahead of him stop. However when he tried to brake and steer away from the stopped vehicle, he found he could do neither because his ignition turned off around the time he braked. The resulting loss of braking and power steering allegedly caused him to collide with the other vehicle.
Mr. Ward alleges GM negligently and “consciously pursued a course of conduct knowing that it created a substantial risk of harm to others” when it failed to recall its cars with the defective ignition switches and warn drivers. He seeks punitive damages in addition to compensatory damages.
GM denies liability for Mr. Ward’s crash. According to the New York Law Journal, GM’s pre-trial order states that “To prevail, [Ward] must prove that his HHR was defective and that the defect caused his accident and injuries, which he cannot do. An ignition switch defect did not cause or contribute to [Ward’s] accident or injuries.”
GM goes on to say that Mr. Ward cannot prove his ignition switch turned off and that it was his fault he crashed because he was “following too closely, failing to pay attention to the roadway, and driving too fast for conditions.”
According to the New York Law Journal, Judge Jesse Furman “cleared the way for Ward’s lawyers to bring up more than 50 other similar ignition defect cases,” just a small fraction of the hundreds of lawsuits GM still faces in the wake of its ignition switch scandal.