General Motors Co. could be exposed to billions of dollars in additional claims related to its defective ignition switches after the U.S. Supreme Court turned away an appeal from the company seeking to block hundreds of lawsuits from proceeding.
The justices on Monday left in place a lower court ruling that said the automaker’s 2009 bankruptcy did not shield it from liability in cases involving death and injuries, or for economic loss because the value of the cars plunged. The court did not comment on its reasoning for rejecting to hear the case.
That could open up the company to expensive and costly damages, which plaintiffs’ lawyers have estimated could be as much as $10 billion. GM has already paid $2.5 billion in legal costs and settlements related to the ignition switch defect, including a $900 million fine to the Justice Department and about $600 million as part of a compensation program to families of victims killed or those injured in accidents related to the faulty ignition switches. Those who settled in the compensation program can’t file another suit against GM.
The ignition switch defect, which allowed the key to inadvertently move to the “off” position and disable air bags, ultimately was tied to 124 deaths and hundreds of injuries. It led to a 2014 recall of nearly 2.59 million older cars.