U.S. District Judge Jesse M. Furman has named the lawyers who will head up the General Motors (GM) multidistrict litigation (MDL) related to claims surrounding the defective ignition switch. Selected as co-lead counsel are Steve W. Berman, Elizabeth J. Cabraser and Robert C. Hilliard. Judge Furman also filled out the rest of the leadership team, which includes the 10-member executive committee. Lance Cooper, the Georgia lawyer who uncovered the defect, and is directly responsible for exposing GM’s cover-up, resulting in massive recalls, was named to the executive committee.
“It’s widely recognized that without Lance’s work in the Melton case the defect would not have been revealed by GM,” says Beasley Allen Founding Shareholder Jere Beasley. ”The automaker had successfully engaged in a cover-up of the known defect and the hundreds of deaths it caused for more than10 years. It’s quite appropriate that Lance should be in a leadership role,” he said.
The Cooper Firm, based in Marietta, Ga., and our firm are representing the Melton family against GM in Georgia state court. The Melton lawsuit has been described by the media as the “linchpin” of the GM litigation. GM committed fraud when it negotiated a settlement agreement with the Melton family late last year. Ken and Beth Melton sued GM after the death of their daughter, 29-year-old Brooke Melton, in a 2010 crash of her Chevy Cobalt linked to the ignition switch defect. After learning that GM knew about the defective ignition switch, and had been untruthful in sworn deposition testimony, the Meltons asked that their settlement agreement be rescinded and refiled a wrongful death and fraud lawsuit against the automaker. This lawsuit is now in the pretrial discovery phase, which is extremely important to the GM litigation. We will aggressively pursue both document production and the depositions of key GM officers, lawyers and personnel.
GM has recalled more than 17 million vehicles related to the ignition switch problem that can leave a vehicle without power and the driver unable to control the vehicle in sudden and dangerous situations. GM has admitted the ignition switch defect is the cause of deaths. Some experts say more than 300 deaths were caused by the defective switches. Investigations have revealed GM knew about the ignition switch defect for 11 years before disclosing it to safety regulators and the public. Hundreds of people have been killed and many more seriously injured. They never knew of the link between their defective GM vehicle and the crash.
The ignition switch in these vehicles may move from the “run” position to the “off” or “accessory” position, disabling power steering and brakes during operation, also possibly deactivating the airbags. GM initially recalled about 780,000 2005-07 Chevrolet Cobalt and Pontiac G5 vehicles on Feb. 13. Twelve days later, it expanded the recall to include an additional 590,000 model-year 2003-07 Saturn Ion, Chevy HHR, Pontiac Solstice, and Saturn Sky vehicles. That initial recall now encompasses 2.6 million vehicles, and GM admits to 13 deaths related to the defect. In June, GM recalled an additional 3.4 million midsize and large cars for the same ignition switch defect. In July, GM recalled 17 older model (1997-2005) vehicles. GM attributes seven crashes, three deaths and eight injuries to this latest group of recalled vehicles, which it says allows “inadvertent ignition key rotation.” The total number of all safety-related recalls now exceeds 29 million.