A Texas jury has ruled an ignition switch in a General Motors car was not to blame for a fatal 2011 crash, a media report said.
Faulty ignition switches in GM cars have been linked to 400 deaths or injuries in the US but this verdict, in Harris County, Texas, was the second in favour of GM this year in lawsuits over the since-recalled ignition switch, Reuters reported.
Earlier this month, a Texas judge dismissed a lawsuit against GM from a woman who blamed a 2012 car crash on a faulty ignition switch of a type that prompted the company to recall 2.6m vehicles. GM had argued that the plaintiff’s case had no expert testimony to support allegations the defective switch caused her 2007 Chevrolet Cobalt to veer out of control and strike a concrete barrier before being hit by a pickup truck.
In the latest case, plaintiff Zachary Stevens alleged a defective switch caused him to lose control of his 2007 Saturn Sky and crash into another vehicle, killing the other driver. GM said his reckless driving was at fault, according to Reuters.
During the trial, which opened on 9 August, Stevens’ lawyers contested GM’s position and noted their client had suffered a severe head wound in the crash. Manslaughter charges initially filed against him were dropped after GM recalled 2.6m vehicles with the switch in 2014, according to his lawsuit.
Jurors deliberated for less than an hour before returning a unanimous verdict for GM, company spokesman Jim Cain told the news agency.
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“We asked the jury to evaluate Zach Stevens’ case on the facts and they did,” Cain said in a statement cited by Reuters. “The accident had nothing to do with the ignition switch.”
A lawyer for Stevens, Josh Davis, called it “a very tough loss”.
Reuters noted the case was the third involving the switch to go to trial since the beginning of the year. The first was voluntarily dismissed by plaintiffs during the trial while the second resulted in a verdict clearing GM of liability for a 2014 crash in New Orleans.
GM settled some claims for injuries and deaths blamed on the switch through an out of court programme administered by Washington lawyer Kenneth Feinberg. Federal lawsuits have been consolidated in New York City while about 20 are pending in the Texas state court where Stevens’ case was filed, the report added.
A fourth trial over the switch is set to begin on 12 September in Manhattan, Reuters added.
GM has paid roughly US$2bn in criminal and civil penalties and settlements related to the switch, which can rotate out of position and cut power to steering, brakes and airbags. The company previously acknowledged that some of its employees knew about the switch defect for years before a recall was initiated.