May 21, 2014

GM asks Texas Supreme Court to consolidate injury suits

The automaker says litigating injury lawsuits related to ignition switches separately will drive up time and expenses.

General Motors and Delphi Automotive Systems have asked the Texas Supreme Court to merge four driver-injury suits tied to faulty ignition switches into one state case, just as it earlier moved to combine litigation over the loss of value tied to the recalled cars.

“Litigating each of these matters separately will involve enormous time and expense,” GM’s attorneys said in a filing Tuesday at the Texas Supreme Court in Austin. The wrongful-death and physical-injury cases are the “first but probably not the last” GM will face in Texas courts, they said.

“Transfer of these lawsuits and any future ‘tag-along’ cases to a single pretrial court will eliminate duplicative discovery, avoid conflicting pretrial rulings, conserve judicial resources, be more convenient for the parties and witnesses and otherwise promote a more just and efficient conduct of this litigation,” the lawyers said.

If they aren’t combined, GM said, “there will remain multiple lawsuits, in multiple courts of the state, involving similar parties and issues.”

U.S. companies make such arguments when they seek to combine similar suits into one. Detroit-based GM cited efficiency in its bid to consolidate litigation in federal courts over economic injuries tied to more than 2.59 million U.S. vehicles recalled for faulty ignition switches.

The cases covered by GM’s most recent request involve claims of physical injuries or wrongful deaths to Texans.

A Lufkin woman filed one suit after losing both legs and breaking her spine when the Pontiac Solstice she was driving suddenly switched off, skidded off the road and hit a tree about two months before the vehicle was recalled for ignition switch defects, according to court papers.

Another involves a Corpus Christi woman who said she suffered permanent spinal injuries when the Chevrolet Cobalt she was driving stalled, causing a collision with another car 17 days before GM issued the recall in February.

The high court is reviewing the request and told the customers to answer GM by June 9.

Separately Wednesday, General Motors added yet another recall to its growing list for the year, targeting 218,000 2004-08 Chevrolet Aveo subcompact cars because the daytime running light module in the dashboard center stack can overheat, melt and catch fire.

It followed a recall Tuesday of 2.4 million vehicles, including 1.3 million crossover SUVs for problematic front seat belts and 1,402 Cadillac Escalades for defective welds. The company told dealers that they cannot sell new or used models until the repairs are made.

The company has announced 19 recalls this year for around 13.8 million vehicles.

This report includes material from The Associated Press and The New York Times.

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