Today, Judge Robert E. Gerber of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York issued a ruling that denies plaintiffs the opportunity to bring claims against General Motors for wrongful death and injuries sustained as a result of the now infamous GM ignition switch defects.
In 2014, GM was forced to recall approximately 2.6 million vehicles due to the lethal driving conditions created by its defective ignition switches, including shut down power to the engine and disabled airbags. At least 84 deaths have been linked to these defects.
GM took active steps to conceal its ignition switch problems, depriving affected owners the opportunity to fix their defective vehicles and avoid the potentially lethal consequences. Nonetheless, today's ruling effectively shields General Motors from liability.
"$7-10 billion in claims now off of the GM tab," said Bob Hilliard, Founding Partner at Hilliard MuÃ±oz Gonzales, LLP, who currently serves as one of only three Co-Lead Counsel in the national litigation against GM and has primary responsibility for the personal injury and death claims.
The "New General Motors Company" that emerged from bankruptcy had originally agreed to assume responsibility for any accident claims that arose after the company acquired the assets of the "Old General Motors Company," including post-sale deaths, personal injury, and property damage from the GM ignition switch defects.
However, GM now refuses to assume responsibility for the new claims that have been brought against the company. These claims include some 60 class action lawsuits and losses that oscillate between $7 and $10 billion. GM alleged that the terms of the Sale Order blocked any new claims from being brought against it.
Mr. Hilliard states, "The Opinion states that pre-sale accident victims were not prejudiced by the denial of due process the Judge found occurred. Respectfully, that is flat wrong. My clients never had their day in Court. They never had an opportunity to appear at the sale hearing when things still mattered and were still unsettled."
"No way GM would have had the protection it now enjoys had it disclosed in 2007-2009 what it finally disclosed in 2014. For GM's lawyers to keep this information in their briefcase at the sale hearing does truly make them the devil's advocate."
"A new day has dawned in corporate America when your goal is to dodge responsibility for killing and maiming hundreds of young Americans…just shut up, sell yourself to yourself, and then fall on your sword but be sure to blame it on your old self. Then watch 10 billion dollars in potential liability vanish."
"This ruling padlocks the courthouse doors," said Bob Hilliard. "Hundreds of victims and their families will go to bed tonight forever deprived of justice. GM bathing in billions may now turn its back on the dead and injured worry free."