Plaintiffs alleging they were hurt by faulty GM ignition switches may seek punitive damages in their lawsuits, according to a ruling handed down by a New York federal bankruptcy judge. General Motors Company LLC (“new GM”) sought to release itself from the liabilities of the admittedly faulty ignition developed by the automaker’s previous incarnation, General Motors Corporation (“old GM”).
Punitive damages are a special type of award given to plaintiffs in civil lawsuits. While not specifically handed down to reward the plaintiff, punitive damages are actually meant to punish wrongdoers and deter others from engaging in similarly egregious conduct.
While bankruptcy laws shield “new GM” from many of the civil and financial liabilities of “old GM”, the judge presiding over the case ruled the “new GM” kept many of the engineers and executives with knowledge of the defective ignition switches. By retaining “old GM’s” staff with knowledge of the defective switches, “new GM” retained liability for the defective engineering.
At least 169 people were killed and hundreds more injured by deadly GM ignition switches. The switches were built with springs unable to adequately hold keys in the run position. A slight bump of the driver’s knee or a weighted key chain could cause the key to change position and shut off the vehicle’s power steering, brakes, and airbags.
Although proving a defendant’s negligence was willful and wanton enough to warrant the dispersal of punitive damages is a difficult legal challenge, GM’s admission it withheld safety information from federal regulators may be a nail in its own coffin. Attorneys representing victims and their families hurt by the defective GM ignition switches remain confident the case will be made GM’s actions were so reckless they necessitate punitive damages.
The product liability attorneys of The Cochran Firm, D.C. are actively monitoring the situation with the defective GM ignition switches. Our attorneys offer free legal consultations to victims hurt by GM’s careless actions. Contact The Cochran Firm, D.C. to see if you have a case.