Colin Kelly, partner in the firm’s Products Liability and Litigation & Trial Practice Groups, was quoted in a Law360 article titled “GM Settlement Plan Strong Enough to Block Most Injury Suits.”
The article discussed General Motors Co.’s plan—a $1 million starting point to calculate payouts for families of those who died or those who suffered serious injuries—to compensate victims of the ignition switch defect and how it should provide enough money to ward of the great majority of potential personal injury and wrongful death litigation.
“The fact that the program will ignore contributory negligence—GM does not care if a victim was texting or drinking at the time of an accident—will be an incentive for victims to settle their claims with the fund,” Kelly said.
“If those plaintiffs were to seek relief in court, their negligence would play a factor in the litigation,” he said.
Kelly disagrees that the plan’s graduated scale for injury compensation puts too much control in GM’s plan administrator Kenneth Feinberg’s hands.
“When you’re dealing with injuries, you’ve got objective medical evidence that tells you what the injuries are, so you’ve got that added layer of protection, even with one person making the compensation determination,” he said.
“The personal injury claims submitted to the plan will be much more straightforward than the property damage claims involved in BP’s compensation plan following its 2010 oil spill,” Kelly pointed out.
Unlike property damage claims, which can be subjective, the GM-related injuries “lend themselves to a more objective compensation adjustment system” where victims are paid based on the severity of their injuries, he said.
“The more of these that go well, the more you’ll see companies consider using this as an alternative to allowing the individual cases to play out in state and federal courts,” Kelly said.