GM Wins First Round in Faulty Ignition Trials Getty Images

GM Wins First Round in Faulty Ignition Trials

The 'bellwether' case came under fire when GM asserted that the plaintiff and his wife had lied on the witness stand about their reasons for being evicted from their home.

NEW YORK—Plaintiffs attorneys in the first General Motors trial over an ignition-switch defect abruptly withdrew the case Friday, handing a victory to the automaker.

"Plaintiff hereby voluntarily dismisses all claims" against GM, attorney Robert Hilliard said in a filing to a federal court in New York.

Hilliard's client, Robert Scheuer, blamed the ignition-switch defect for injuries suffered in a May 2014 crash when the airbag on his 2003 Saturn Ion failed to deploy.

GM has admitted the link between the faulty ignition and airbag non-deployment, but had maintained there was no evidence Scheuer's injuries arose from the ignition-switch defect.

The Scheuer lawsuit had been seen as a "bellwether" case because of its similarity to other cases involving car owners who say they were injured due to the defect. 

But Scheuer's case came under fire when GM asserted that he and his wife had lied on the witness stand about their reasons for being evicted from their home. 

GM said it had evidence Scheuer had doctored a check on the down payment for the home, raising doubts about his overall credibility.

US District Court Judge Jesse Furman said in court that GM's evidence would probably be "devastating" for the Scheuer case and that the case was "almost worthless" as a bellwether lawsuit, Bloomberg News reported.

Furman's court is scheduled to hear five additional bellwether cases. 

GM applauded the outcome.

"We said all along that each case would be decided on its own merits, and we had already started to show by strong, clear and convincing evidence to the jury that the ignition switch didn't have anything to do with Mr Scheuer's accident or injuries," the automaker said in an emailed statement. 

"The apparent lies the plaintiff and his wife told the jury ended the trial early, and we are pleased that the case is over without any payment whatsoever to the Mr Scheuer."

Hilliard said he was looking forward to the next case in the litigation.

"To have any trial end in such an unexpected and unforeseen way is disappointing. Especially one such as this where the concerns regarding the underlying safety of certain GM vehicles are legitimate and real," Hilliard said. 

"A jury's decision regarding the existence of a defect will have to wait until the next trial."

Thousands of people have claimed damages linked to the ignition defects, which GM admitted it hid for more than a decade before it began recalling 2.6 million cars worldwide in February 2014.

GM established a compensation program for injured car-owners that found 399 claimants meriting payments totaling $594.5 million, according to a December report by the program.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2016

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