By Jessica Dye
NEW YORK (Reuters) - A lawyer for General Motors said on Wednesday the company has made "significant progress" toward resolving lawsuits involving injuries and deaths allegedly linked to a faulty ignition switch that prompted the recall of 2.6 million vehicles.
The automaker has paid about $2 billion in penalties and settlements since the 2014 recalls over the switch, which can slip out of place, causing engine stalls and cutting power to steering, air bag and brake systems.
GM has admitted that some of its employees knew about the switch problems years before a recall was ordered.
"We've made significant progress in terms of discussions and potential resolutions," Richard Godfrey, a lawyer for GM, told U.S. District Judge Jesse Furman during a hearing in Manhattan federal court where federal litigation over the switch has been consolidated.
Robert Hilliard, a lawyer representing injury and death plaintiffs, also told Furman that GM is "actively and successfully settling cases" over the switch. More than 200 injury and death cases involving the switch are pending in Manhattan, while other cases have been filed in state courts across the U.S.
Further details about settlement discussions and how many cases have been resolved were not available. After the hearing, the parties met privately with Furman to discuss issues related to settlement talks, including GM's request for more information from plaintiffs and their lawyers.
Their comments follow GM's announcement that it had reached a confidential settlement with Nadia Yingling, whose husband died in 2013 following a car crash. Her case had been slated for trial starting May 2. The next federal trial is now expected to begin in September, although some cases may go to trial in state courts over the summer.
Last year, GM struck a confidential deal to resolve injury and death cases from about 1,380 plaintiffs represented by Hilliard's firm. It also set up an out-of-court fund run by Washington lawyer and compensation expert Kenneth Feinberg, which reported resolving nearly 400 injury and death claims.
GM is also facing claims from customers who say their vehicles lost value as a result of the recalls. A federal appeals court is currently weighing the extent to which their cases will be affected by GM's 2009 bankruptcy.
A spokesman for GM, Jim Cain, said in a statement that depending on the facts and circumstances of each case, "we will consider settlement, but any discussions are confidential."
(Reporting by Jessica Dye; Editing by Alan Crosby)