First GM ignition switch lawsuit is dismissed

Fri Jan 22, 2016 12:56pm EST
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By Jessica Dye

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The first federal trial over General Motors Co's massive ignition switch recall came to an early end on Friday as the parties said the case had been dismissed, in the wake of allegations that the plaintiff had given misleading testimony.

According to a filing in Manhattan federal court, the plaintiff Robert Scheuer agreed to voluntarily dismiss his claims against the automaker with prejudice, meaning they cannot be refiled. Scheuer agreed to take no payment from GM for his claims.

"I really do commend you for doing the right and sensible thing," U.S. District Judge Jesse Furman told lawyers for both sides during a brief hearing Friday, before excusing the 12 jurors hearing the case.

The abrupt dismissal of Scheuer's trial, which began on Jan. 12, is unlikely to affect other switch lawsuits, but is a temporary setback for efforts to gauge the value of similar claims in the litigation.

Friday's filing came in the wake of allegations that the plaintiff and his wife had given misleading testimony about his physical and financial condition.

On Thursday, Furman, who oversees nationwide litigation over the defect, had urged GM and Scheuer to consider ending the trial, and for the automaker to focus on preparations for a second "bellwether" trial set for March.

Bellwether, or test, trials are sometimes used in product liability litigation in which many people have similar claims. They are meant to guide settlement discussions.

Scheuer had accused GM of concealing an ignition switch defect that prevented air bags in his 2003 Saturn Ion from deploying in a May 2014 crash, shortly after the automaker began a recall of 2.6 million vehicles with the defect.   Continued...

The GM logo is seen at the General Motors Lansing Grand River Assembly Plant in Lansing, Michigan October 26, 2015. Photo taken October 26.   REUTERS/Rebecca Cook