Owners of General Motors Co. cars with faulty switches plan to expand a lawsuit over fallen prices June 12 after a bankruptcy court ruling that they can go forward, their attorney said.
An amended suit will add plaintiffs, allege more defects and perhaps expand the claims against the carmaker, lawyer Steve Berman said Friday at a Manhattan court conference.
Berman, managing partner of Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro LLP in Seattle, previously estimated about 10 million customers are eligible to demand $750 each from GM, based on the bankruptcy court order, a total of $7.5 billion. An earlier suit claimed as much as $10 billion for 27 million drivers over assorted defects.
U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Robert Gerber saved GM from billions in potential demands this month when he upheld its shield against claims tied to actions before its 2009 government bailout. A separate class action barred by his order will probably be dismissed, according to another federal judge assigned to sort and handle the cases.
“The bankruptcy court ruling was very positive for GM,” a company spokesman, Jim Cain, said Friday in an e-mail. “Ultimately, we expect there will be fewer claims going forward.”
Of the plan to expand the suit, he said, “If plaintiffs’ new theories had any merit, we presume they would have alleged them in their original complaint.”
GM recalled more than 30 million cars last year, spurring government probes and about 140 class-action suits. Drivers now barred from suing plan to appeal Gerber’s ruling, probably using a shortcut through the courts that the bankruptcy judge allowed them.
The car-price suits face hurdles.
“These types of economic-loss claims are very difficult to prove in the first place because of all the variables that affect the value of used cars,” Cain said.
Customers eligible to join the amended class action are those who bought GM cars after its 2009 government bailout. The bankruptcy order, designed to help the automaker survive, bars suits by people who bought cars before then.
U.S. District Judge Jesse Furman in Manhattan has been supervising the two sides as they wrestle over documents and interviews with GM executives and lawyers.
The case is In re General Motors LLC Ignition Switch Litigation, 14-md-02543, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).