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GM determining who will get ignition-switch payouts

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DETROIT -- The leader of General Motors' ignition-switch victim settlement fund plans to determine criteria this month and start accepting claims Aug. 1.

Kenneth Feinberg, who also led the 9/11 victim fund and the BP oil spill disaster fund, plans to accept claims for a limited amount of time, his spokeswoman confirmed in an email.

GM has given Feinberg the discretion to determine eligibility criteria and the size of settlements. Analysts have said the settlements could reach into the billions.

"I will be spending the next few weeks seeking advice and input from all interested parties as to the terms and conditions of such a program," Feinberg said in a statement. "I have already drafted some preliminary compensation ideas and plan to share them in confidence over the next few weeks with lawyers, public interest groups, GM and others interested in the compensation program."

General Motors Co. CEO Mary Barra told reporters Tuesday the company will report an estimated total for settlements by the time it reports second-quarter earnings July 24.

One of the lingering questions is whether Feinberg will offer settlements to victims who were sitting in the back seat of vehicles involved in accidents blamed on the ignition-switch defect, which can cause the small cars to turn off while driving, cutting off frontal air bags in a front-impact collision.

Ken Rimer, stepfather of Natasha Weigel, an 18-year-old killed in a 2006 accident in Wisconsin, said Monday at a protest outside GM's Detroit headquarters it's unconscionable that the automaker is currently not counting back-seat victims in its running total of people affected by the defect.

GM has linked at least 13 deaths to the defect; the exact figure is likely higher.

GM last week released a 325-page investigative report -- conducted by outside attorney Anton Valukas -- revealing that inept engineers, secretive lawyers and slow safety officials failed to order a recall while the defect festered for more than a decade.

 

-- Detroit Free Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 13, 2014 E3

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