GM Begins Talks To Settle Injury And Death Lawsuits

The New York Times this afternoon is reporting that General Motors has begun talks to settle more than 300 claims of deaths and injuries related to the ignition switch recall, and may in fact be planning to compensate victims of the crashes tied to the issue.

The Times says Texas attorney Robert C. Hilliard brought the claim against GM, a claim that could indicate a much larger death toll than the 13 fatalities tied to the problem thus far. His clients account for 53 claims of wrongful death and 273 personal injury claims involving the recalled GM cars.

Hilliard met in Washington this morning with GM's super-lawyer Kenneth Feinberg, and while neither side will comment on what was discussed, it means a settlement — and compensation for victims — may be coming. From the Times:

The session was the clearest indication yet that G.M. does plan to compensate accident victims and their families, even though it is moving aggressively to dismiss other types of lawsuits, including dozens of class-action cases seeking compensation for diminished value of the recalled vehicles.

"We've taken responsibility for our actions and we will continue to do so," Greg Martin, a company spokesman, said. "We've acknowledged that we have civic and legal obligations as they relate to injuries in accidents involving the recalled cars."

Meanwhile, GM is working to dismiss other lawsuits, such as ones related to lost resale value of affected cars, which is what cost Toyota $1.3 billion back in 2012.

Remember, there has been much hand-wringing over the degree to which (or if) the "new GM" can be held legally accountable for the actions of pre-bankruptcy "old GM," as the bankruptcy and restructuring limits the new company's liability.

My take is that if GM is truly stepping up to settle these claims and compensate the victims, then it's good to see them doing the right thing. Not doing that in the first place was what got them into so much trouble to begin with.

Photo credit AP