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First Ignition Case Against GM Dismissed Due to Lying Plaintiff

Judge chastises lawyers for not vetting plaintiff more thoroughly.

by on Jan.22, 2016

GM paid out billions in fines and settlements over the ignition switch problem, but scored a victory in U.S. federal court today.

After the first round of courtroom drama between General Motors and plaintiffs seeking damages related to the maker’s faulty ignition switches, GM couldn’t be happier.

The plaintiff agreed to have his case dismissed with prejudice and did not accept any payment from GM for his claims.

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Allegedly, the plaintiff, Robert Scheuer, and his wife, Lisa, made misleading statements during their testimony about his physical condition and their finances in the bellwether trial. Adding to the problems for Scheuer, he’s been accused of forgery and tampering with other documents.

“The apparent lies the plaintiff and his wife told the jury ended the trial early, and we are pleased that the case is over without any payment whatsoever to Mr. Scheuer,” the company said in a statement.

The trial, which in concert with others, is designed to provide guidance in settlement discussions, and this outcome is very damaging to the process for subsequent plaintiffs.

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GM lawyers claimed they had evidence to suggest that the memory loss as well as neck and back problems Scheuer claimed to sustain when his 2003 Saturn Ion hit a tree in 2014 were not related to the collision. The automaker revealed evidence that Scheuer’s injuries were instead were long-term problems.

“We said all along that each case would be decided on its own merits, and we had already started to show by strong, clear and convincing evidence to the jury that the ignition switch didn’t have anything to do with Mr. Scheuer’s accident or injuries,” General Motors said in a statement.

It became clear early on in the trial that something was amiss and U.S. District Judge Jesse Furman encouraged the two sides to reach a settlement – quickly. He praised both sides for heeding his advice, but not without criticizing the plaintiff’s attorneys, Robert Hilliard and Steve Berman, who are leading the ignition-switch litigation.

(Click Here for details about how automakers set a new record for recalls in 2015.)

“Plaintiffs have only themselves to blame for the fact that this case has become such an outlier,” Furman said. “Quite frankly, I would have thought counsel would do more due diligence before selecting this case for trial than obviously happened.”

Scheuer contended the accident caused him to suffer memory loss, and as a result, he forgot to send check for a down payment on the couple’s “dream home.” They were evicted. However, GM lawyers were able to convince Furman that Scheuer, a postal worker from Tulsa, Oklahoma, had doctored the check as well as the postage marks on the envelope.

Hilliard and Berman do not dispute the allegations, but contend that didn’t clear GM of its responsibilities due to the fact that the airbag in the vehicle didn’t work. GM engineers testified that that the airbag functioned properly: the car wasn’t moving fast enough for the device to deploy.

The next bellwether case will begin in March. In September, GM announced it had reached a deal to settle 1,385 death and injury cases for $275 million and a class-action shareholders’ lawsuit for $300 million.

(To see more about GM’s third consecutive year of record global sales, Click Here.)

The company paid about $600 million to settle nearly 400 claims made to a victims compensation fund it set up in 2015. Those claims covered 124 deaths and 275 injuries, though GM’s fund rejected more than 90 percent of the 4,343 claims it received, according to figures the company released.

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One Response to “First Ignition Case Against GM Dismissed Due to Lying Plaintiff”

  1. GT101 says:

    It’s all about the money. The siren chasers will bring any case to court that they believe they can get a favorable judgment on even if from a fraudulent claim or lying plaintiffs.