The first bellwether trial against General Motors over the faulty ignition switch has come to abrupt end. The plaintiff, Robert Scheuer has voluntarily dismissed his lawsuit against the automaker according to a filing in Manhattan federal court today.
Scheuer accused GM of concealing a defect in the ignition switch that caused the airbags in his 2003 Saturn Ion to not deploy when he crashed into two trees in Oklahoma in May 2014. The accident caused injuries to Scheuer's back and neck.
As we reported in December, GM tried to dismiss the case. However, U.S. District Judge Jesse Furman said the plaintiff had provided sufficient evidence to bring the case to trial.
So why was the case dismissed? To understand fully, we need to look at one of the claims made by Scheuer. He claims the crash caused memory loss and, in turn, caused him to misplace a $49,500 check for a down payment on a house in Tulsa, OK. This caused Scherer's family to be evicted from the house.
But paperwork filed by GM's lawyers earlier this week tell a much different story. They have found evidence that Scheuer committed check fraud when buying the house. A real estate agent found Scheuer faked a check stub totaling $441,430.72 from his federal government retirement account as a “proof of funds”. The check stub originally totaled $430.72 before the changes took place.
GM lawyer Richard Godfrey said in the filing suggests that Scheuer "misled his own counsel, as well as the court and the jury.” GM asked Judge Jesse Furman to present the evidence and bring two witnesses; the real estate agent and a forensic technology expert.
“We are assessing GM’s allegations about a situation we were unaware of,” Robert Hilliard, the lawyer representing Scheuer told Bloomberg earlier this week.
On Thursday, Furman granted GM permission to present this new evidence to the jury. Furman also said the new evidence would be “devastating,” making the suit “almost worthless as a bellwether case.” Furman urged the two parties to consider dismissing the case.
“The apparent lies the plaintiff and his wife told the jury ended the trial early, and we are pleased that the case is over without any payment whatsoever to Mr. Scheuer,” GM spokesman Jim Cain said in a statement.
Scheuer and his wife have hired criminal defense lawyers.
The dismissal of this case is unlikely to affect other cases against. What it will do is make it slightly harder to determine the value of similar claims.