Tuesday, March 29, 2016

GM trial Wrap Up. BREAKING: GM Wins Defense Verdict In 2nd Ignition-Switch Trial

BREAKING: GM Wins Defense Verdict In 2nd Ignition-Switch Trial

Law360, New York (March 30, 2016, 11:23 AM ET) -- General Motors on Wednesday won the second bellwether trial in the continuing fight over its defective ignition switches, as a New York federal jury found that GM cars were unreasonably dangerous but did not find that plaintiffs' injuries were caused by their car, a Saturn roadster.
GM attorney Mike Brock cross examination of plaintiff Dionne Spain

The trial, selected by GM as a test of some of the weaker claims in a pool of hundreds of lawsuits, had been closely watched after a first bellwether disintegrated when the plaintiff was accused of lying.

Closing Statements

A jury in a New York City trial stemming from the General Motorsignition switch controversy that resulted in millions of recalls ended its first day of deliberations Tuesday without reaching a verdict.
The jury deliberated in Manhattan federal court for more than two hours after hearing a lawyer for a Louisiana man and woman blame a defective ignition switch for a 2014 accident on a New Orleans bridge. A GM lawyer said there was no evidence the ignition switch was to blame.
The trial will be used as a blueprint to define legal boundaries for similar unsettled claims against the automaker, which has issued recalls affecting more than 30 million vehicles since early 2014.
Hundreds of claims remain against the automaker after GM revealed two years ago that it had continued to sell flawed vehicles for more than a decade after discovering an ignition switch defect in Chevy Cobalts and other small cars.
Under certain conditions, the ignition switch can slip out of the on position, making it difficult to steer or stop as the car stalls. GM says it has fixed the problem.
Plaintiffs' attorney Randall Jackson told jurors there was overwhelming evidence the defect was to blame in the crash.He said a key chain pulled down by the weight of other keys might have pulled it out of position. And he added that testimony that the car turned off during the accident was "all you need to hear." Jackson dismissed GM's counterarguments, saying: "You will find they don't make sense."
General Motors attorney Mike Brock blamed the crash on ice, saying the car's occupants had no serious injuries and nothing deserving of compensation at trial."This accident was not caused by a defective switch," he said. Brock noted that the only damage to the car was scrapes on a bumper.

During the trial the jury heard from the two plaintiffs Lawrence Barthelemy and Dionne Spain.

Lawrence Barthelemy, who rode in co-plaintiff Dionne Spain's vehicle on the rainy evening of their January 2014 crash on the Crescent City Connection bridge in New Orleans, took the witness stand for the first time since the trial began earlier this month to try to explain how the crash had affected his health and quality of life. Spain and Barthelemy claimed the sports car spun out on the bridge after losing its power brakes and power steering when its ignition switch allegedly slipped out of place.

Aryeh L. Kaplan questions plaintiff Lawrence Barthelemy

Barthelemy claimed his back problems since the crash had also added more strain to his already strenuous job supervising the cleaning of barges that he said were larger than the Manhattan courtroom he was testifying in. Kimberly Branscome of Kirkland & Ellis LLP, representing GM, produced a series of post-accident medical reports and fitness test results related to his employment that she argued showed an able, thriving man who not only kept a physically demanding job after the crash, but even managed to earn a lucrative promotion.

Branscome drew particular attention to a physical evaluation in July 2014 that Barthelemy seemed to have aced, allowing him to continue with the job he held at the time as a barge washer for Turn Services LLC, a New Orleans-based company servicing marine industry clients. 

"There is a section for floor-to-waist lifting. Do you see that? It says, safe maximum load for dynamic floor-to-waist lift is 65 pounds," Branscome said, referring to a test of a candidate's ability to lift up to a 65-pound weight off the ground.
"You were asked to perform that test at 50 pounds and 65, and you were capable of performing it at 65, correct?" she said.
"Correct," Barthelemy conceded.
"And then, down a little bit lower, you were asked to ambulate with a 65-pound load 600 feet. Do you see that? And you passed that test, correct?" she pressed on.
"Correct," Barthelemy yielded again.

Wednesday afternoon, on the third day of trial, Spain was cross-examined for almost two hours by GM lawyer Mike Brock of Kirkland & Ellis LLP. But U.S. District Judge Jesse Furman stepped in repeatedly to command yes-or-no answers from Spain as she tried to confront Brock’s shadings with added explanation.
“Have you conveyed to anyone that the lighting conditions on the evening of the accident were dark and that the road conditions were ice?” Brock asked. After an objection that was overruled, Spain replied, “Like I said, I didn't see any ice on the ground. I was only going by what ...”
She was then interrupted by Judge Furman.
“Just yes or no,” he said.
Brock tried again: “I am asking, have you said that the lighting conditions were dark and the road conditions were ice?”
Spain hesitated.
“Yes or no,” Judge Furman said again.
“Yes, I mentioned that,” Spain said.
Seconds later, the judge had to prompt her once more for a yes-or-no answer, this time on her previous statements about what was on her keychain at the time of the crash. Those three times were just some of many. 

Also the jury heard from several experts.
Brian Everest deposition on screen, attorney Jennifer Altman in foreground.

Jurors on Friday also heard the videotaped testimony of some of the engineers who had played a role in tardy and ineffectual investigations within GM that had failed for years to connect defective ignition switches to serious safety problems.

Brian Everest, a supervisor at GM's field performance assessment department whose engineers worked on product liability-related issues, testified in his deposition that he had only heard about the problem of low-torque ignition switches sometime in 2012.

The low torque of the ignition switches is central to their defect, as it makes it easier for the ignition key in defective switches to accidentally be rotated out of place from the "Run" to "Accessory" position. This key rotation can shut off the vehicles' power steering and power brakes, and more seriously, prevent air bags from deploying in major collisions.

Everest defended his failure to act on the ignition switch torque problem even after being informed of it and reviewing an old technical service bulletin sent to GM dealers that had warned about such inadvertent key rotations.
Expert witness Steve Loudon
 Brian Sieve questions Steve Loudon
“This practice of limiting how engineers can describe situations was one of the factors that allowed this situation to stay down and not get the attention that it needed for such a long time,” former Delphi engineer Steve Loudon told the court. Loudon spent his career in automotive electronics, writing software that controls airbags, among other things. He’s now a frequent expert witness in car-defect cases.

“You’re limiting [engineers] from being as precise and accurate as they could be,” Loudon said.
GM expert Donald Tandy, questioned by Brian Sieve

The jury continues to deliberate tomorrow.

No comments:

Post a Comment