The number of deaths linked to faulty general motors ignition switches rose to 51 Monday - just after the deadline to submit compensation claims passed. Some lawmakers and families say that's far too early.
Jay and Gerri Gass's daughter Lara was a 27-year-old third-year law student who'd just accepted her first job. Last March she died inside a Saturn Ion - the first known death linked to faulty GM switches to happen after the recalls started.
"They got off easy this way," said Gerri Gass.
Jay and Gerri accepted GM's compensation offer in November, under a plan administered by Ken Feinberg. He told me that no family has turned down GM's offers.
"There are some who have it under advisement," he said Feinberg. "But not one has yet declared they think they can do better in court and have rejected the offer."
GM set aside $400 million for the fund. Feinberg has received more than 4,000 claims for deaths or injuries, and while hundreds remain under review, no additional claims will be accepted.
Senators Ed Markey and Richard Blumenthal have called on GM to reconsider closing the fund since over a third of the vehicles are still not fixed. The Grass family agrees and wants to see the deadline extended.
"Hell yeah, they need to extend it until they fix ever car," Jay Gass told me. "There is no reason for that not to happen."
There are multiple criminal investigations ongoing, a federal grand jury is looking at this, and the U.S. attorney's office in New York is exploring the case. I asked Feinberg why GM shouldn't wait until those investigations conclude before closing the fund.
"Those investigations may punish GM," Feinberg answered. "I can't speak for those investigations. This fund is designed with mercy in mind, to compensate innocent victims and that's what we're doing."
The fund pays out a minimum of $1 million for any eligible death claim. Many payouts are in the multiple millions. Though no more claims will be accepted, Feinberg is still evaluating the claims that have been submitted and that process will continue through the spring. Feinberg told us he expects the death toll to rise above 51.