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Supreme court rebuffs GM’s bid to limit ignition-switch lawsuits

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Supreme court rebuffs GM’s bid to limit ignition-switch lawsuits

But the automaker is not yet close to putting the matter behind it and may now face years of additional litigation as a result of the latest legal turn in the case.

On Monday, the United States Supreme Court declined to review a lower-court ruling that the company was liable for claims for deaths or injuries arising before it filed for bankruptcy in 2009. The compensation fund that G.M. set up made payments to more than 100 such claimants, but a bankruptcy filing typically wipes out past liability, and G.M. had argued that point in court.

Last year, however, a federal appeals court said prebankruptcy claims could proceed. G.M. then asked the Supreme Court to review that ruling.

The Supreme Court’s rebuff means that several hundred remaining unsolved wrongful death and personal injury claims against G.M. could be sent to state courts for resolution or even trials.

“There are a lot of cases out there that either are going to have to be settled by G.M. or litigated, now that the Supreme Court is not getting involved,” said Robert C. Hilliard, a lawyer who is handling 243 claims against G.M. Among them are cases involving 27 deaths, Mr. Hilliard said.

He estimated that 1,000 or more outstanding cases remain.

The ignition switch at the heart of the matter was used mainly in the Chevrolet Cobalt and Saturn Ion small cars that G.M. started producing in 2002 and 2003. The switch had a tendency to turn off by itself, leaving the car without power and disabling its airbags.

G.M. engineers knew of the switch’s problems for years before the company issued limited recalls of affected models, and the trouble remained obscured as G.M. went through a federally financed bankruptcy in 2009. In 2014, as links between the switch and an increasing number of fatal crashes became clear, the company was forced to acknowledge that it had failed to respond quickly, and it recalled 2.6 million vehicles.

Eventually, G.M. paid $900 million to settle a federal criminal investigation, and set aside $594.5 million for a fund to compensate victims of switch-related crashes. That fund was managed by the compensation expert Kenneth R. Feinberg.

The ignition-switch troubles damaged G.M.’s reputation, led some automakers to move more quickly to issue recalls, and prompted federal safety regulators to push harder for fast action when safety issues are suspected. In 2015, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles was fined $70 million for failing to execute 23 recalls involving 11 million vehicles.

In a statement on Monday, G.M. reiterated that allowing prebankruptcy claims to move forward “doesn’t change the landscape” regarding GM ignition-switch lawsuits. “The plaintiffs must still establish their right to assert successor liability claims,” the company said. “From there, they still have to prove those claims have merit.”

How much G.M. might be liable for is hard to calculate. In injury and death cases, plaintiffs have to show that a defective switch caused the accident in which a victim was injured or killed. Some cases have been dismissed at trial because crashes were found to be related to other causes, such as impaired driving, or other contributing factors.


Mesothelioma Lawsuit // Monroe Law Group

What is Mesothelioma?

Mesothelioma is a rare but aggressive cancer that affects the protective lining of the lungs, abdomen and other organs, and causes symptoms like shortness of breath, unexplained weight loss, chest wall pain, coughing up blood, fatigue, anemia, and wheezing, cough or hoarseness. Unfortunately, because symptoms of mesothelioma typically don’t appear until the disease is in its later stages, the cancer is extremely difficult to diagnose, and while there is no cure for mesothelioma, treatment in the form of surgery, radiation or chemotherapy may help relieve the symptoms.

What Causes Mesothelioma?

The most common known cause of mesothelioma is exposure to asbestos, a naturally-occurring material that was once used extensively in a number of industries, including shipbuilding, electrical power, and home and commercial construction, valued for its heat resistance, insulating properties and tensile strength. Before being banned in more than 50 countries, asbestos was woven into fabric and mixed with cement in the production of furnaces, floor tiles, roofs, plumbing, fireplaces and window caulking, and more than 75 types of jobs in the United States have been known to expose workers to asbestos, as reported by the National Institute for Occupational Health and Safety. Second-hand exposure to asbestos is also a serious health concern, as families of workers exposed on the job may be vulnerable to mesothelioma from asbestos dust or fibers brought home in their hair or on their clothing.

Lawsuits Filed Over Mesothelioma Lung Cancer

The use of asbestos in the United States was heavily restricted in the 1970s, but it was never banned in this country, and those considered to be at the highest risk for asbestos-related mesothelioma include the following:

  • Factory workers
  • Shipyard workers
  • Workers in construction and heating industries
  • Railroad and automotive workers
  • Workers in asbestos mills and mines
  • Manufacturers of asbestos-containing products

The first complaints against the manufacturers of asbestos-containing products were brought in 1929, and in the years since, thousands of asbestos exposure lawsuits have been filed on behalf of workers and their families, alleging that asbestos manufacturers and employers neglected to implement safety measures to protect workers from asbestosis, mesothelioma and other asbestos-related illnesses. In fact, litigation involving asbestos exposure and mesothelioma cancer is believed to be the longest-running mass tort in the history of the United States, with more than 700,000 claimants filing complaints against more than 8,000 defendants.

Contact the Experienced Mesothelioma Legal Team at Monroe Law Group

Because mesothelioma has an exceptionally long latency period of between 20 and 50 years, the disease is typically in its late stages by the time it’s diagnosed, and is therefore associated with a low survival rate. Also due to the long latency period, many workers who were exposed to asbestos in the 30s and 40s, when the material was still routinely used in construction and other industries, didn’t exhibit any symptoms of mesothelioma until decades after their initial exposure, or died before they could be diagnosed with the disease. If you have been diagnosed with mesothelioma, and you believe asbestos exposure on the job to be the cause, contact the Monroe Law Group today contact us today by phone at (855) 222-3888 or by email at intake@monroelawgroup.com to explore your possible compensation options.

Mesothelioma is caused by asbestos exposure & is most common among shipyard, construction, factory, mill, mining, manufacturing, automotive, and railroad workers. // Monroe Law Group