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First GM Airbag Lawsuit Dismissed

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Oklahoma City, OKThe first bellwether lawsuit concerning GM airbags, which involved a postal worker who claimed he suffered serious back and neck injuries when his airbag failed to deploy, has been dismissed, with the postman accused of committing fraud in his case. Although the lawsuit was dismissed, it does not indicate a ruling on the merits of the airbag lawsuit, and more bellwether lawsuits are scheduled.

The lawsuit involved Robert Scheuer, who claimed his car’s airbag was disabled by a defective switch, which resulted in him developing neck and back injuries when he was involved in a car accident. The Wall Street Journal (1/22/16) reports that Scheuer and his wife testified that those injuries caused memory loss, which they claimed was the reason they lost their dream house. Attorneys for GM, however, presented evidence that Scheuer doctored a check stub, which severely undermines his testimony.

As a result, Judge Jesse Furman agreed to dismiss the lawsuit. Although GM will not have to pay anything to Scheuer, because the lawsuit was not decided on the basis of claims about defective airbags, attorneys for the plaintiffs say it will not have much bearing on future lawsuits.

There are still five more bellwether trials to be heard this year concerning allegedly defective airbags in GM vehicles. Plaintiffs allege they suffered serious injuries - including back and neck injuries - when their airbags failed to protect them properly when they were involved in a car accident. Additionally, lawsuits have been brought by people whose loved ones died in car accidents in which their airbags allegedly failed to deploy.

According to Bloomberg (1/8/15), at least 124 deaths have been linked to the defective switch that prevented airbags from properly deploying. GM has already paid $900 million to settle a criminal investigation by the Justice Department, $300 million to shareholders to settle claims of inflating share prices, and $869 million to victims and families of victims to settle claims linked to defective switches, including settling almost 1,400 lawsuits.

Documents suggest at least some people at GM knew about problems with the switch well before officials were told about the problems.

The next bellwether trial is scheduled for March, with the third slated for May.

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