Despite GM Settlement, Wrongful Death Lawsuit to Proceed, Judge Ruled

A Georgia judge has ruled that a wrongful death lawsuit against General Motors (GM) can proceed, despite a settlement reached prior to the automaker recalling millions of vehicles earlier this year, due to dangerous faulty ignition switches.

Cobb County State Court Judge Kathryn J. Tanksley denied a motion by GM to dismiss the lawsuit last week, reviving the claim and scheduling a trial date of April 2016, at which time a jury could return substantially higher damages after hearing evidence of how the automaker ignored and concealed problems with ignition switches in certain models of Chevrolet, Pontiac and Saturn vehicles, which caused more than a dozen deaths and serious injuries.

The GM wrongful death lawsuit was filed by Brooke Melton’s family earlier this year, seeking to re-open the case originally filed in 2011. The complaint stems from a 2010 accident in which Melton’s Chevy Cobalt suddenly shut off while she was driving, causing her to lose control of the car and collide with another vehicle.

The family attempted to re-open the case, stating they would return the money received under the prior settlement, arguing that GM fraudulently concealed that they were aware of ignition switch problems for decades, however, decided to allow the dangerous and defective vehicles to remain on the road.

Melton’s Chevy Cobalt was included in the GM ignition switch recall issued earlier this year that affected about 2.56 million vehicles. The automaker acknowledged that the vehicles may have been prone to shutting off suddenly if a heavy key ring is used or if the ignition is jarred, causing the vehicle to stop, but preventing airbags from deploying in a crash.

The Judge felt that the recently filed lawsuit different significantly from the original claim because it now includes allegations of fraud against the company.

An internal report released by GM following the recalls and recent congressional investigations described a “pattern on incompetence” among employees of the automaker, where many people knew the vehicle should be recalled but did nothing. It was estimated that the cost to repair each ignition was under $2.

Melton’s family contends that there is clear evidence that GM lied and withheld pertinent information in their case, which would have materially affected the nature of that settlement.

After carefully examining safety issues in GM vehicles, the company recalled nearly 20 million vehicles this year due to ignition switch problems. However, GM is only offering compensation on those injured or killed in accidents involving the first 2.56 million vehicles recalled. GM is continuing to fight claims being brought on behalf of some victims injured in vehicles sold prior to GM’s 2009 bankruptcy reorganization, indicating that the “new GM” should not be liable for problems caused by the old company.

The deadline for filing settlement claims with the GM fund is December 31, 2014, with a cut off for accidents before December 31, 2014. There are at least 89 claims that were filed after the first weekend that the settlement fund began taking claims.

There has been a growing number of GM recall lawsuits filed by those claiming economic damages from the faulty ignition switches.

In early June, a consolidation of all economic lawsuits against GM was issued in federal court in New York as a multidistrict litigation (MDL). Last week, a product liability lawsuit was filed on behalf of families of 29 people were killed as a result of the defective ignition switches, as well as for more than 600 people who were injured. All of the claims come from the 17 million vehicles recalled by GM for ignition switch problems, but for which they have refused to offer compensation.

If you or a loved one was injured as a result of a defective product, you may be entitled to compensation. For more information, contact one of our Gacovino Lake attorneys at 1-800-246-HURT (4878).

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