Venue for General Motors product liability cases still undecided

On Behalf of Dunlap Fiore, LLC |

Vehicle recalls may keep dangerous cars, trucks and SUVs off the road, and companies may provide a fix for these defects at no cost. Unfortunately, vehicle recalls are not always enough to keep consumers safe. Louisiana residents may be interested to know that 15 separate attorneys all representing litigants that have filed product liability cases against General Motors had to make their case for why all the cases should be consolidated before a federal judge in each of their home states.

All in all, cases were made for consolidating the cases in one of seven states. One of the states is the state of Louisiana. The panel of seven overhearing the pleas made by the attorneys will have to mull over all the testimony presented to them by all 15 attorneys, discuss the pros and cons of each attorneys plea and are expected to come up with a final decision in a couple of weeks.

The business litigation stems from 59 cases that have been filed against General Motors linked to the Chevrolet Cobalt and other similar older models that the company has issued a recall on to fix defective ignition switches that were originally installed when the cars rolled off the manufacturing plant. Nearly 2.6 million cars in total were recalled by GM to fix this issue which has been linked to 13 deaths so far.

GM on its end has tried to stonewall the litigation by arguing that all pending litigation should be shelved temporarily until a bankruptcy ruling is issued on the legitimacy of claims filed before the company’s 2009 bankruptcy filing and subsequent restructuring.

The company believes that because of its government approved bankruptcy settlement in 2009 all claims made prior to that restructuring should be diverted to a separate older GM entity that has been setup to marshal such liabilities and assets, thus freeing the post-bankruptcy GM company from any liability.

Clearly, such litigation is not straightforward. Many complex issues regarding venue and other specific legal questions need to be decided before the actual trial can begin. Anyone going through the process of business litigation should make sure they understand the legal process and what they can expect.

Source: The Wall Street Journal, “Where Should the GM Civil Cases Be Heard? Lawyers Make Their Pitches,” Jeff Bennett, May 29, 2014