In February 2014, General Motors recalled 800,000 cars for faulty ignition switches, which could shut off a car (and its airbags) during standard operation. What's followed has been nothing short of a full-blown scandal, as GM evidently knew about this defect for a decade. This week, the brouhaha enters yet another phase.
Reuters reports that a two-week trial came to a close Wednesday when the jury found that GM's defective ignition switch was not to blame for injuries two people suffered after a 2007 Saturn Sky crashed. The plaintiffs argued that the switch was to blame, whereas GM believed the crash came about because of poor road conditions.
"The jurors studied the merits of the case and saw the truth: This was a very minor accident that had absolutely nothing to do with the car's ignition switch," GM said in an emailed statement. "The evidence was overwhelming that this accident -- like more than 30 others that occurred in the same area that night -- was caused by the driver losing control on an icy bridge during a statewide winter weather emergency."
This is one of several "bellwether" cases, which are used as markers to indicate how future, similar trials will end up. This will aid in determining settlements, and whether other cases should even be settled. There are many more cases left to go, and GM will likely take this ruling as an indication that not every claim holds water insofar as the company's culpability is concerned.
Since issuing its initial recall in 2014, GM's ignition-switch recall has ballooned to cover some 30 million vehicles around the world. The issue lies within the switch assembly itself. A small force applied at the correct angle (for example, bumping a knee into a key in the ignition) can cause the key to move to the Off position, cutting engine power and disabling the airbags.