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Openings set to begin in first trial stemming from GM ignition switch recall lawsuits

January 12, 2016   by The Associated Press

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NEW YORK – Opening statements are ready to begin in the first trial to result from hundreds of federal lawsuits brought against General Motors after faulty ignition switches led to massive recalls.

FILE - In this April 1, 2014, file photo, Clarence Ditlow, executive director of the Center for Auto Safety, displays a GM ignition switch similar to those linked to 13 deaths and dozens of crashes of General Motors small cars like the Chevy Cobalt, during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington. A civil trial starting January 2016 in New York City will test the legal boundaries of hundreds of claims remaining against General Motors over faulty ignition switches. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)

The attorney for an Oklahoma man hurt in a 2014 crash plans to tell a jury Tuesday that the faulty switch led to his client’s injuries when air bags failed to deploy. The automaker will argue an ignition switch was not to blame for any injuries after the man’s 2003 Saturn Ion was run off the road by another driver.

The Manhattan federal court trial is expected to last a month. Although the car in question has been destroyed, a large section of a similar car is resting in the courtroom for demonstration purposes.

Related: GM ignition switch compensation fund pays out $594.5 million on 399 claims, final report says

The trial is the first of six scheduled throughout this year to narrow legal issues so other cases involving more than 1,000 people can be settled.

It focuses on a May 28, 2014 crash that injured Robert Scheuer after he was run off an Oklahoma highway by another driver.

Related: Judge’s ruling on punitive damages could expose General Motors to large jury verdicts

A decade after learning of the ignition switch defect, the auto company revealed in 2014 that the flaw in Chevy Cobalts and other small cars necessitated an unprecedented recall. The switches can slip out of the “on” position, causing the cars to stall, knocking out power steering and turning off air bags.

In September, GM announced it had reached a deal to settle 1,385 death and injury cases for $275 million and a class-action shareholders’ lawsuit for $300 million.

In 2014, GM issued 84 recalls covering more than 30 million vehicles, including 27 million in the U.S.