GM victims fund to have wide eligibility

Mon Jun 30, 2014 10:00am EDT
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June 30 (Reuters) - The compensation fund for victims of General Motors Co's defective ignition switch will be open to a broad range of people and should finish its work by the end of the second quarter of next year, the attorney in charge of the fund said.

Kenneth Feinberg, in an interview ahead of Monday's announcement on how the fund will operate, said he had no idea how many people would file claims or whether the number of deaths linked to the faulty switch would rise from the 13 GM has identified.

Claims on the fund can be filed for five months starting Aug. 1, he said.

In February, GM began recalling 2.6 million older-model cars, including Chevrolet Cobalts and Saturn Ions, linked to the defective switch, which can be jarred out of the run position and deactivate power steering, power brakes and air bags.

Chief Executive Officer Mary Barra previously said the fund was intended to compensate "every single person who suffered serious physical injury or lost a loved one" as a result of the bad switch. She also has said Feinberg, the architect of compensation funds for victims of high-profile catastrophes including the Sept. 11 attacks, would determine who was paid and how much, and there would be no cap on the payout.

Details of the compensation program began to emerge during congressional testimony by Barra on June 18 and in subsequent interviews with plaintiffs' lawyers.

However, Feinberg declined to speculate how many claims would be filed or how many deaths may end up being linked to the faulty switch, something GM said he would ultimately determine.

"I don't know about 13 or 50 or whatever," he said. "I will not speculate until people file a claim."

During the hearing, U.S. Representative Diana DeGette of Colorado suggested there could be as many as 100 deaths linked to the faulty switch.   Continued...