GM begins talks to settle ignition switch lawsuits

CEO stops short of saying the company will compensate victims
Associated Press
May 3, 2014

A mediator for General Motors has begun negotiations about settling more than 300 claims related to a deadly ignition switch problem in some older model small cars.

Kenneth Feinberg confirmed in an interview with The Associated Press that he met for four hours Friday with Robert Hilliard, a Corpus Christi, Texas, lawyer who said he represents families of 53 people killed and 273 injured in crashes of defective GM vehicles. Feinberg would not comment specifically on what was discussed.

"I'm evaluating various compensation options for GM to consider," said Feinberg, who said plans to present the options to GM in the next few weeks. "I'm glad I met with him. It was an interesting meeting," Feinberg said.

Feinberg said he listened to Hilliard and four colleagues explain the "quality and quantity" of their cases. Hilliard said no dollar figures were discussed, adding that he won't settle at a discount to what his clients could get through court mediation.

GM has recalled 2.6 million small cars, mostly Chevrolet Cobalts and Saturn Ions, to replace the faulty switches, which can slip unexpectedly out of the "run" position and cause the engines to shut down. If that happens, power-assisted steering and brakes will fail, making cars difficult to control. Also, the air bags won't inflate in a crash.

GM has admitted knowing about the problem for more than a decade, but it didn't start recalling the cars until last February. The company counts far fewer victims than Hilliard, saying 13 deaths and 31 crashes are linked to the switches.

GM announced Feinberg's hiring at a congressional hearing last month. He is an expert in disaster fund management who handled the Sept. 11 Victim Compensation Fund as well as funds for victims of the Boston Marathon bombing and the BP oil spill.

At the hearing, GM CEO Mary Barra stopped short of saying the company would compensate victims. "We will make the best decisions for our customers, recognizing that we have legal obligations and responsibilities as well as moral obligations," she said.

There's a lot at stake in the negotiations.

Hilliard claims that if all the cases go to trial and juries rule against GM, punitive damages could place the company in financial jeopardy. He cited a case earlier this month where a Louisiana federal court jury ordered Japanese drugmaker Takeda Pharmaceutical Co. and its U.S. counterpart, Eli Lilly and Co., to pay $9 billion in punitive damages over a diabetes medicine linked to cancer.

GM, which had $27 billion in cash at the end of March, would not comment on the size of potential verdicts or the meeting.

Comments

ram03

Another reason I prefer my blue oval.

kURTje

Blame the Unions. e.r.

coasterfan

Better late than never, GM.

This has nothing to do with unions, and everything to do with the higher-ups at GM, who decided it was more cost-effective to let some people die, rather than replace the defective part. I read that the cost would have been around $1 per vehicle.

The only thing I blame unions for are:
1. Weekends: until unions bargained for better hours, workers regularly worked 6 or 7 days a week.

2. 40-hour work week: until unions bargained for fewer hours, fulltime work was often 60-70 hours a week.

3. healthcare benefits: until unions bargained for this, few employers offered coverage to their workers.

4. safe working environment and worker's compensation in case of injury: until unions bargained for this, deaths and serious injuries on the job were routine, and workers had no income while injured.

5. higher salaries for most everyone, including those jobs without unions: unions successfully bargained for fair compensation, and workplaces without unions raised salaries, as well, in order to compete for more qualified workers.

Conservative leaders, of course, have tried to villianize unions, and the middle class in general. This is an obvious attempt to distract us from the true source of the problems they are so concerned about: the richest 1%. Union members are all hard-working middle class, blue collar folks, so it's hard to understand why middle class conservatives continually attack them.

Nor'easter

Obummercare, you exempted the unions and stuck the rest of us with this ripoff.

grumpy

Most folks have no problem with unions that have evolved over the decades and keep up with what is needed by their members. Mine, the one I retired from, is in charge of apprenticeships, training, and continuing education to keep up with the advances in the trade. The do the collective bargining, while letting the individual make their own deals for higher pay for higher skill levels, some of us get/got up to 20% "bonus" if we were as good as we had demonstrated over the years, either in saftey, skill, speed, or any combination of those things. The union also dealt with health and retirement fringe benefits.

What they could NOT do was use dues for donations for politics, parties, or candidates. They could bundle money from seperarate donations of members if desired but the members voted no dues for politics. That is how unions can evolve instead of stagnat as shown by how most unions are shrinking, obviously what they are selling is not what the public, or the members want or they would be expanding. They need to do what the membership wants, and that is much like what people want from their gov't. To do the things that all or most want done and not spend dues (taxes) foolishly. Safety matters are much more dealt with by the company safety man, insurance companies, and OSHA than by any union from my 30+ year experience. At one time unions did have more say, but those times are decades ago. Unions need to evolve with the times or run the risk of being like the Dodo bird, extinct.

Unions could expand if they did what the membership wants and not what the union leadership tells the members what they should want. If folks want them to stay as they are we can see what those who could be in unions have done the last few decades, they have not joined, and unions have been fading into the background. It is time for them to evolve and do what is wanted by those who could be in the union actually want, not be told by the union leadership what they should do. BIG difference in modern times compared to when folks worked 6 or 7 days a week and 80 hours a week. Times have changed and many, if not most unions haven't kept up with changes over the decades.

The Big Dog's back

So when are you going to evolve and walk upright?

grumpy

Poor piddles can't make an argument about the facts of unions being lost in the past, so he does what he is able to do, name call. This is the argument that the wingnuts make when the donations from unions to politicians are brought to light. As stated Unions needed to do what they did... 60-120 years ago. Many if not most have not changed their way of doing things since. Times have changed, unions, or at least most haven't. It is no longer the 19th or 20th centuries.

The Big Dog's back

Answer my question.

grumpy

Poor, poor piddles has to try to distract from that which he can't argue with. The majority of unions have changed little in the last 60 years or more. The public doesn't want what the unions are offering at the price demanded. The working people would take unions IF the unions took, and did what the members wanted, and not what they don't want. Many, if not most people don't wish to have their dues spent for things the members don't agree with.

You notice he doesn't refute, or explain why most people no longer either join unions and haven't for decades.

kURTje

e.r. = eye roll. Or sarcasm...glad you notice.

sorryhog

The CEO'S should be held accountable.
They knew this, but chose to ignore it to keep production!