To date, General Motors’ outside fund has approved 119 death claims and 243 injury claims related to the defective ignition switch that sparked last year’s recall crisis. The fund is set to wrap up soon. Before it does, critics — including some family members of those killed — are wondering why the fund is covering certain deaths but not others.
Bloomberg reports that the compensation fund run by attorney Kenneth Feinberg only covers deaths and injuries that occurred in the 2.59 million cars recalled for that defect, including Chevrolet Cobalts, Saturn Ions and other small cars. What the fund doesn’t cover is GM’s other ignition switch defect found on larger cars last year, which also prompted a multimillion-vehicle recall.
The reason for this, the news service reports, is that GM recalled those vehicles immediately after finding out about the problem, and “because employees made no efforts to keep it under wraps,” as seems to be the case with the Cobalt ignition switch. The switch in question here is also a different design than the famously problematic Cobalt switch, so deaths or injuries that happened in other cars aren’t eligible for fund compensation.
Senator Richard Blumenthal, who urged GM CEO Mary Barra to expand the fund, has been critical of this outcome:
“I believe now more than ever that all of the injuries and deaths caused by defective ignition switches in GM cars should be covered by the compensation fund,” the Connecticut Democrat said in a telephone interview this week. “All of those other models suffered from an eerily and strikingly similar malfunction that caused death and casualties. There’s no logical or factual reasons that those victims should be excluded.”
A GM official said the fund’s scope is fair due to the second switch’s design and the circumstances under which it was discovered. Still, it comes as little consolation to several people, now deemed ineligible for compensation, whose loved ones were killed in these crashes; Bloomberg quotes one woman whose husband and four children were killed in such a wreck in 2005. (The woman sued GM, and the case was settled in 2010.)
Indeed, most of the 4,261 claims processed were deemed ineligible for compensation; about 81 remain under review.
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