Baylor Law School Professor’s Work Influential in Billion Dollar GM Ignition Switch Defect Litigation

October 1, 2016

Baylor Law School Professor’s Work Influential in Billion Dollar GM Ignition Switch Defect Litigation

Banner photo of Jill Wieber Lens

WACO, Texas -

Two years ago, General Motors (GM) admitted that it failed to disclose for ten years a faulty ignition switch implemented in millions of Americans’ small cars.

That ignition switch caused at least 124 deaths and 275 injuries. GM has already settled more than 1,000 death and injury claims and a class action suit brought by its shareholders. Other claims are still ongoing, including an MDL (multi-district litigation: a grouping of similar law suits) representing about 235 wrongful-death and injury cases currently pending in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York.

That Court scheduled and conducted bellwether trials, essentially meaning test cases. Before the fifth bellwether trial, GM moved for summary judgment arguing that any duty it had to warn of dangers ceased when it sold the car. Thus, GM could not be liable in tort for failing to issue a post-sale warning—a warning when it later learned of the defective ignition switch.

The Southern District of New York disagreed with GM and cited Baylor Law School professor Jill Wieber Lens. In an article titled: Warning: A Post-Sale Duty to Warn Targets Small Manufacturers, 2014 Utah L. Rev. 1013, 1020 (2014), Professor Lens discussed the post-sale duty to warn, its rising popularity, and its possible effect on small businesses. The Court relied on Professor Lens’s authority in finding that Virginia law would recognize the post-sale duty to warn. GM later settled that fifth bellwether trial, perhaps partly due to concerns about the newly recognized post-sale duty to warn.

Professor Lens teaches Torts I, Torts II, Products Liability, and Appellate Advocacy & Procedure at Baylor Law School. Her primary research interest relates to tort remedies, mainly punitive damages.

CONTACT: Joshua Weaver, Baylor Law School Marketing and Public Relations Specialist

Established in 1857, Baylor Law School was one of the first law schools in Texas and one of the first west of the Mississippi River. Today, the school has more than 7,400 living alumni. It is accredited by the American Bar Association and is a member of the Association of American Law Schools. Baylor Law School has a record of producing outstanding lawyers, many of whom decide upon a career in public service. The Law School boasts two governors, members or former members of the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate, two former directors of the FBI, U.S. ambassadors, federal judges, justices of the Texas Supreme Court and members of the Texas Legislature, among its notable alumni. In its law specialties rankings, U.S. News & World Report ranked Baylor Law's trial advocacy program as #4 in the nation. Baylor Law School is also ranked #55 in the magazine's 2017 edition of "America's Best Graduate Schools." The National Jurist ranks Baylor Law as one of the "Best School for Practical Training," and #4 in the nation in its most recent "Best Law School Facilities" listing. The Business Insider places Baylor Law among the top 50 law schools in the nation. Baylor Law School received the 2015 American Bar Association Pro Bono Publico Award, making it only the third law school in the nation to be honored with the award since the award's inception in 1984.

Baylor University is a private Christian University and a nationally ranked research institution, characterized as having "high research activity" by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. The University provides a vibrant campus community for approximately 16,000 students by blending interdisciplinary research with an international reputation for educational excellence and a faculty commitment to teaching and scholarship. Chartered in 1845 by the Republic of Texas through the efforts of Baptist pioneers, Baylor is the oldest continually operating University in Texas. Located in Waco, Baylor welcomes students from all 50 states and more than 80 countries to study a broad range of degrees among its 12 nationally recognized academic divisions. Baylor sponsors 19 D1 varsity athletic teams and is a founding member of the Big XII Conference. Learn more at

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