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Products liability claims failed to reveal GM defect

By now, nearly everyone in New Jersey has heard that evidence suggests that General Motors was aware of the problem with the ignition switches in certain makes and models of its vehicles for years before the recall began. As it turns out, several products liability claims ended in settlements with strict confidentiality provisions. Other claims failed to bring the defect to light due to laws in many states regarding the recovery of certain damages.

The laws of many of the states in which claims were filed limit the amount a person can be awarded for non-economic damages, change how liability is determined or limit awards for punitive damages. Whatever the reason, the cases never progressed far enough to force GM to issue a recall for the faulty ignition switch. In 2007, one family was told that the expense involved in taking GM to court was not worth the $350,000 maximum allowable recovery in the family's home state.

Georgia does not have the limitations of other states, however, and a claim filed against GM in 2011 proceeded without an offer of settlement due to the particular circumstances of the case. An engineering report requested, as part of the plaintiff's case, revealed the problem with the ignition switch. Within months of the engineer's testimony regarding his finding in 2013, GM made the defect public. So far, it is believed that 42 people died because of the problem with the ignition switch.

New Jersey residents who have either been injured or lost a loved one because of a defective product should not let naysayers keep them from filing products liability claims. Receiving an award of damages is sometimes only part of the impetus for filing a claim. A member of the family that was told not to file a claim recently remarked that, if their claim had gone forward, other people might have lived.

Source: consumerist.com, "Early Lawsuits Regarding GM Ignition Switch Defect Often Fell Through Cracks In The Court System", Ashlee Kieler, Dec. 30, 2014

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