General Motors sold vehicles with a defective ignition switch, but the part was not to blame for a 2014 car accident, a U.S. jury found on Wednesday in the first verdict since the company was forced to recall millions of vehicles.
The verdict on Wednesday in a two-week trial in Manhattan was announced after the eight jurors deliberated less than a day to decide that a Saturn Sky in the car crash on a bridge in New Orleans was "unreasonably dangerous" and that GM failed to warn the public about its safety risks.
Dionne Spain and Lawrence Barthelemy of New Orleans said they have suffered back pain and other injuries when a faulty switch in Spain's 2007 Saturn Sky slipped out of position and caused it to crash, while GM said the accident was minor and the result of slippery roads.
While the jury found that Spain and Barthelemy had suffered injuries, they said that the switch was not to blame.
"The jurors studied the merits of the case and saw the truth: this was a very minor accident that had absolutely nothing to do with the car's ignition switch," GM spokesman Jim Cain said in a statement.
The case was selected to serve as a bellwether, or test, for several hundred similar injury and death cases involving the switch, which can slip out of place, causing engines to stall and cutting power to the brake, steering and air bag systems. GM has admitted that some of its employees knew about the problems for years, but failed to flag it as a safety issue and order a recall.