Source: Reuters by Jessica Dye
NEW YORK, Nov 6 (Reuters) - A federal judge in Manhattan has set Jan. 11, 2016, for the first trial in consolidated litigation against General Motors Co over a series of safety issues, including a faulty ignition switch, that have prompted millions of recalls this year.
U.S. District Judge Jesse Furman in the Southern District of New York on Thursday chose the date for the bellwether, or test, trial, during a court hearing in the litigation, which consists of approximately 130 lawsuits so far against the car maker. The cases include claims for personal injury and wrongful death, as well as lost vehicle value stemming from the recalls.
The first trial will involve a personal injury or wrongful death case that will be selected in the coming months, Furman said.
GM was hit by the slew of lawsuits in the wake of its announcement earlier this year that it was recalling 2.6 million vehicles because a problem with the ignition switch could cause it to slip out of position, cutting power to air bags, steering and brakes. Since then, GM has recalled millions of other vehicles over suspected safety defects, which have also been added to the litigation.
Unless GM settles, there will likely be multiple bellwether trials that will not be binding on the other cases, but their outcome will help inform both sides about the strengths and weaknesses of their cases.
Plaintiffs' lawyers had previously proposed setting the first trial in October, but GM opposed the request, calling it unrealistic, and asked Furman to set a trial date for June 2016.
Following the hearing Thursday, Robert Hilliard, a co-lead counsel for plaintiffs, said the date was "consistent with the reasonable but aggressive approach" Furman has said he wanted to set for the litigation.
It has not yet been determined what type of vehicle the trial will address. GM is currently attempting to resolve hundreds of potential claims on behalf of individuals injured or killed in crashes linked to the ignition switch through an out-of-court program run by lawyer Kenneth Feinberg.
(Reporting by Jessica Dye; Editing by Ted Botha, Bernard Orr)