The mixed verdict is the first in a series of six lawsuits that legal experts consider bellwether cases that will help determine how the automaker handles more than one hundred pending claims related to the faulty ignition switches.
GM has recalled nearly 2.6 million vehicles equipped with the faulty switches, which could slip out of the "run" position and into "accessory" mode, turning off the engine and critical safety functions like airbags and power steering. Subsequent investigations revealed the company knew about the deadly problem for at least a decade and didn't alert federal regulators or the public to the danger. An expert hired by GM found the defective switches were responsible for at least 124 deaths and 275 injuries.
Wednesday's results stemmed from a two-week trial concerning a January 2014 accident in New Orleans, Louisiana. Plaintiffs Dionne Spain and Lawrence Barthelemy claimed their defective switch in their 2007 Saturn Sky prevented them from avoiding a multi-car crash on an icy road.
An earlier lawsuit, initially expected to be the first to result in a verdict, never reached a conclusion. The case was dismissed because the plaintiff, Robert Scheuer, may have presented doctored evidence at trial.