GM cleared in first case over updated ignition switch

FILE PHOTO; A recalled Chevy Cobalt ignition switch is seen at Raymond Chevrolet in Antioch, Illinois, July 17, 2014. REUTERS/John Gress

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A federal jury in New York on Wednesday found General Motors GM.N was not to blame for a crash of an Arizona man who alleged that his accident was caused by an updated version of the carmaker's ignition switch that did not adequately fix the flaws of a previous model.

An earlier version of the switch had been linked to nearly 400 injuries and deaths, but GM settled the last case involving that switch in September last year. The company so far has paid roughly $2.5 billion in criminal and civil penalties, settlements and legal fees in connection with that switch.

The plaintiff, Dennis Ward, said in this lawsuit that an updated model of that defective switch was to blame for the 2014 accident in which he hurt his knee. He alleged the switch suddenly rotated out of place, cutting off his car’s power and leaving him unable to steer and brake the vehicle.

There are some 230 individual cases pending with the Manhattan court over the new switch model, six of which have been selected as test trials.

“In this case, the jury carefully considered the evidence and found that the ignition switch in this car was not defective and played no role in the accident,” GM said in a statement after the verdict.

Ward’s car had been outfitted with the so-called “190 switch,” an updated version of the previous “423 switch” model.

GM conceded the 423 switch was defective, leading to the 2014 recall of 2.6 million vehicles. But the company insisted that the flaws were solved in the updated model, which was equipped with a stronger spring to improve resistance.

During the trial, the carmaker’s defense lawyers had said the accident was Ward’s own fault for not paying attention to traffic conditions and the road ahead.

Reporting by Tina Bellon; Editing by Anthony Lin and David Gregorio