By on June 10, 2014

RenCen1

Reuters reports the lawsuits filed against General Motors over its decade-plus handling of the ignition switched linked to 13 fatalities and 54 accidents will all be reviewed by U.S. District Judge Jesse Furman in the Southern District of New York, as ruled Monday by the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation. The panel determined New York to be the appropriate venue for the hearings based upon the court’s handling of the 2009 bankruptcy that allowed the automaker to shed its former self, liabilities and all. The lawsuits to be heard by the bankruptcy judge involve economic damages, suits GM wants the judge to determine if they are blocked by the liability protections established upon its exit from bankruptcy.

KARE-TV reports one of the families affected by the recall expressed their outrage at the automaker’s decision to include their daughter’s friend among the 13 who lost their lives, but not their daughter, who died with her friend. Ken and Jayne Rimer believe their daughter, Natasha Weigel, had been sitting in the back of the Chevrolet Cobalt behind her friend Amy Rademaker, had not been counted because Weigel was not in front of an airbag when the vehicle smashed through several trees in 2006. The Rimers also doubted CEO Mary Barra’s sincerity when they spoke to her about Natasha, Jayne claiming Barra’s tears to be “staged.” The family is demanding to know why Weigel was left out of the fatality count, but did not state how they would go about obtaining said information.

In Detroit, Automotive News reports other families affected by the recall are planning to protest outside of the annual GM shareholders meeting Tuesday. Monday, protesters gathered at the Renaissance Center to let their voice be heard by all who would hear, including the live cameras of CNBC. Around 20 are expected to protest the shareholders meeting beginning at 9:30 a.m.

Meanwhile, three more names were revealed from the list of 15 who were fired by GM last week after the Valukas report was published:

  • Jaclyn Palmer: Attorney
  • Ronald Porter: Attorney
  • Maureen Foley-Gardner: Director of field performance evaluation

A total of 11 names have been revealed as of this writing, including former GM engineer Ray DeGiorgio, which said report laid the majority of the blame for the ignition switch upon. The 325-page report mentions DeGiorgio by name 207 times, including in the opening sentence of the report itself. Attorney Anton Valukas, hired by GM to conduct the investigation that bears his name, says of the former engineer:

He actually changed the ignition switch to solve the problem in later model years of the Cobalt, but failed to document it, told no one, and claimed to remember nothing about the change.

Valukas added DeGiorgio’s decision to solve the problem but not to document the change was “deliberate” and “an act that violated GM’s policies and which would throw GM investigators off the track for years.”

Finally, The Detroit News reports the GM Board of Directors are well aware of the recall issues, but are not happy with the associated headache. Chair Tim Solso says he and his board members have faith in Barra and her executive team, but is looking to push forward with improving the corporate culture at the root of the recall with “high-performance teams and quality leadership… in the right jobs… aligned around guiding principles, vision, values and strategy.” Solso adds the crisis has brought the leadership together, with GM becoming more transparent and focused on its customer base.

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8 Comments on “US Judicial Panel Consolidates Lawsuits, Sends Them To NY...”


  • avatar
    lowsodium

    I would think the law is pretty clear cut on shedding liabilities.

  • avatar
    jpolicke

    It’s a tough call. As much as I sympathize with the Rimers for their loss, the suit is about victims injured as a result of a defective switch’s preventing the airbags from deploying. Had the switch been up to spec, the outcome could well have been the driver surviving and their daughter still being fatally injured. Ms. Barra’s tears were probably sincere; she’s a mother herself. That doesn’t mean she can just hand out company money because she feels badly for you.

    • 0 avatar
      CJinSD

      I suppose it depends on whether or not the cause of the accident was loss of control due to the defective ignition switch.

      Sending this back to the court that presided over the travesty that was GM’s bankruptcy procedure gives me no hope for justice.

      • 0 avatar
        jpolicke

        Both good points. Handing this case to a court that has already demonstrated a willingness to subvert bankruptcy law for a political objective, I don’t have much confidence in what they’ll do to tort law. Guess it depends on how The Powers That Be want it to come out.

        I’ve read about halfway through the Valukas report and it amazes me to learn that we went from Freedom 7 to walking on the moon in fewer years than it took for GM to realize that the airbags don’t work when you shut the car off.

        • 0 avatar
          wsn

          No sympathy from me here.

          They choose to buy GM despite repeated warnings about potential bankruptcy. They enjoyed a low price and guess what? There is pay back.

          Of all Americans, especially Americans who bought GM, the vast majority agreed with the GM bankruptcy case and the bailout. It was not the perfect case to reflect the consistency of applying law, but it’s democratic nonetheless.

  • avatar
    jberger

    Heck of a early win for GM on the venue selection.

    I was hoping they would have to get in front of another circuit who might look at how the bankruptcy laws were trashed during the bail out.

  • avatar
    mitchw

    Forgive my amateur lawyering, but isn’t the risk to ‘new GM’ that the court will say that the bankruptcy may be reopened because the ‘old company’ made false statements to the govt about known liabilities? Isn’t this what ‘new GM’ is deathly afraid of, and isn’t this the leverage that these attorneys are going to wield in pursuit of an out of court settlement? GM wants the bankruptcy fire wall to remain intact for every category of grievance, not just lost value on some sh*tboxes they had to make to satisfy CAFE.

    Sorry, had to get that out

  • avatar
    Morea

    Paging PCH101. Paging PCH101. Where is that guy when we need him to defend the legality of the bankruptcy proceedings?


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