U.S. District Judge Jesse Furman in the Southern District of New
York said plaintiffs could begin requesting documents from the
company related to accidents, injuries and lost vehicle value linked
to the switch that allegedly occurred after GM emerged from
bankruptcy in 2009.
Since the beginning of the year, GM has recalled nearly 15 million
vehicles worldwide over potentially defective ignition switches. The
company has set up a program, run by lawyer Kenneth Feinberg, to
compensate victims of crashes involving about 2.6 million of those
cars, mostly Cobalts, Ions and other small cars. The program has so
far identified 19 deaths linked to the defect.
The company has been hit by more than 100 lawsuits from customers
who claim that the recalls caused the value of their vehicles to
plummet, as well as hundreds of claims on behalf of people injured
or killed in accidents they said were caused by the faulty switch.
GM had asked Furman to delay discovery while it waited for a ruling
from a bankruptcy judge over whether some claims were blocked by the
terms of its July 2009 sale order, which the company said barred
suits over pre-bankruptcy incidents.
The bankruptcy judge is not expected to rule until 2015. In the
meantime, plaintiffs’ lawyers said they should be allowed to move
forward on the post-bankruptcy claims and that any delay would
unnecessarily hold up the cases.
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Furman ruled Friday that plaintiffs could proceed with discovery for
the claims that would not be affected by the bankruptcy court’s
However, he said discovery should focus on requesting documents from
the company. Most depositions should be deferred for now, and GM and
plaintiffs’ lawyers should work out a “reasonable, but aggressive
schedule” for handing over the material, Furman added.
A spokesman for GM declined to comment. One of the lead lawyers for
plaintiffs, Robert Hilliard, said he was pleased with the order,
which he said indicated “the court will insist this case move
quickly and efficiently over the next few months.”
The case is In re: General Motors LLC Ignition Switch Litigation,
U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, No.
(Reporting by Jessica Dye in New York; Editing by Alexia Garamfalvi
and Lisa Shumaker)
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