A federal judicial panel consolidated lawsuits against General Motors over the reduced economic value of ignition-switch defect vehicles into one court, streamlining the process of determining whether the automaker is liable for damages.
The panel, chaired by John G. Heyburn II, issued an opinion today transferring economic-loss cases to Southern District of New York Judge Jesse M. Furman. The ruling could affect more than 80 lawsuits.
The move expedites the consideration of lawsuits filed by owners of Chevrolet Cobalt and Saturn Ion vehicles who claim that their cars are worth less because GM failed to fix an ignition switch defect for more than a decade.
GM is expected to fight the economic loss lawsuits, arguing that its Chapter 11 bankruptcy restructuring in 2009 should protect it from those liabilities.
Separately, the automaker plans to offer settlements to victims of crashes blamed on the ignition-switch defect through a compensation fund directed by attorney Kenneth Feinberg.
The economic-loss cases are best heard in Manhattan, where "several judges ? have some familiarity with" the automaker's 2009 bankruptcy, Heyburn ruled.
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