Chicago — In one of the biggest consumer fraud cases in the United States, a federal court ordered General Motors to pay $7.7 million for switching engines in Oldsmobile cars without telling buyers. A six-member jury awarded $550 each to 14,000 owners who bought 1977-model Oldsmobiles and discovered the cars had less powerful Chevrolet engines. But the jury excluded 36,000 other owners who bought the same car after April 10, 1977. GM, the biggest and most profitable US automaker, successfully argued that the public was aware of the engine switch by that date.
The verdict means General Motors is liable for the plaintiffs' legal fees. Attorneys who filed the suit said legal expenses could exceed $1 million. Genera l Motors will appeal.