First NYC trial starts in GM ignition switch recall case

AP News
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Posted: Jan 11, 2016 5:01 PM

NEW YORK (AP) — A jury was selected Monday for a Manhattan civil trial aimed at testing the legal boundaries of hundreds of claims remaining against General Motors over faulty ignition switches.

Opening statements were scheduled for Tuesday in the first of six trials scheduled over the next year to narrow legal issues in lawsuits affecting over 1,000 people. Hundreds of lawsuits were consolidated in Manhattan federal court, where Judge Jesse M. Furman questioned prospective jurors for several hours in a search for people who could be fair and impartial.

A section of a tarp-covered car rested in the courtroom where the claims of a Tulsa, Oklahoma, man were to be aired before a dozen jurors. The trial focuses on an Oklahoma crash that injured Robert Scheuer.

His lawyers will argue that a faulty ignition switch prevented the air bags in his 2003 Saturn Ion from deploying when he was run off an Oklahoma highway on May 28, 2014 by another vehicle and crashed into trees, Furman told prospective jurors.

General Motors plans to counter that the ignition switch was not the cause of the crash, that air bags were not designed to expand in the kind of crash that Scheuer experienced and that they would have made no difference if they had, the judge said.

A decade after learning of the ignition switch defect, the auto company revealed in 2014 that the flaw in Chevy Cobalts and other small cars necessitated an unprecedented recall. The switches can slip out of the "on" position, causing the cars to stall, knocking out power steering and turning off air bags.