car crash

What Are Bellwether Trials, And Will They Impact GM?

In one of the most widespread auto recall cases in recent memory, General Motors is facing hundreds of lawsuits related to a faulty ignition switch installed in many of their cars. This case is particularly disturbing due to the fact that GM knew about the issue, but chose to reject a repair that would have cost the automaker just 90 cents per car.

The First of Many Trials

At least 124 deaths have been linked to the faulty switch, and potentially hundreds more have suffered serious injury. The first of several hundred claims to go to trial is the case of Robert Scheuer, a 49-year-old man who crashed into a tree after his ignition switch allegedly failed. Although Robert survived the crash, he was left with neck and back injuries.

A Bellwether Trial

Robert’s claim is among six lawsuits hand-picked as a bellwether trial. In mass tort cases such as this one, bellwether trials are used to essentially “test the waters” for both plaintiff’s attorneys and defense lawyers. These cases typically include elements common to most of the other claims, and can help the legal teams decide if litigation or settlement is the best way to resolve the case.

Why Choose This Claim?

Robert’s case was likely chosen because it is not the strongest claim, and Robert's injuries, while serious, were not life-threatening or fatal. This will allow both sides to see how strong their cases are – if the plaintiffs win, GM will be more likely to settle out of court, and may be more willing to agree to a larger settlement.

If the defense wins, then GM may feel more comfortable fighting these claims in court. On the other hand, the plaintiff’s attorneys may use this as a learning experience for the stronger cases to come. It currently seems as though there is a lot of damning evidence against GM, so the automaker faces an uphill battle.

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