Lawsuits alleging GM cars lost value to be heard in New York

The Thurgood Marshall U.S. Courthouse on Foley Square The Thurgood Marshall U.S. Courthouse on Foley Square in Manhattan is the seat of the federal court in the Southern District of New York and serves Manhattan, the Bronx, Westchester and fire other upstate counties. This photo is from May 3, 2011. Photo Credit: AP

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CHICAGO - General Motors Co. won a bid to fight at least 85 federal lawsuits over its recalls of almost 2.6 million cars before a federal judge in New York.

The suits, filed across the United States by and on behalf of owners claiming their cars lost value as a result of this years recalls to repair defective ignition switches, were  bundled Monday for pretrial proceedings by the federal Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation.

The cases will be overseen by U.S. District Judge Jesse M. Furman in Manhattan. The Washington-based panel last year assigned to him a collection of state lawsuits over claims that McGraw Hill Financial Inc.s Standard & Poors unit lied about the objectivity of its mortgage-backed securities rating system.

The seven-member panel Monday cited Furmans prior experience with mass litigation and with lawsuits over GMs 2009 bankruptcy. The judges rejected requests by several lawyers for customers to ship the cases to U.S. District Judge James Selna in Santa Ana, California, who presided over pretrial litigation concerning the Toyota Motor Corp. recall of millions of cars subject to sudden and unintended acceleration. Mondays panel ruling didnt mention Selna.

FOCUS IS FINANCIAL LOSS

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The litigation sent to Furman concerns only money lost by vehicle owners, not crash injuries or fatalities. State-court filed cases arent included in the transfer. The cases will be returned to their constituent courts at the end of pretrial litigation if not resolved before then.

Arguing for consolidation in New York at a May 29 hearing in Chicago, GM attorney Andrew Bloomer had touted that courts proximity to and familiarity with the bankruptcy case pending at another federal court building in Manhattan.

IGNITION SWITCH FLAW

Ignition switches in the Chevrolet Cobalt, Saturn Ion and other cars made by Detroit-based GM were prone to turning off engines and power if jostled, preventing air bags from deploying in the event of a crash.

The company, which has acknowledged 13 resultant deaths, last week fired 15 people after an internal investigation led by former  U.S. Attorney in Chicago Anton Valukas  faulted the company for failing to act on the issue while knowing about it for more than a decade.

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