General Motors agreed to settle a second lawsuit filed against it in connection with its faulty ignition switches that caused fatalities including Brook Melton, a 29-year old woman in Georgia.
Melton’s parent filed a lawsuit against GM claiming that the automaker concealed evidences regarding the ignition problems in Chevy Cobalts. Melton died in a car crash in 2010. She was driving her 2005 Chevy Cobalt on a wet high-way when it lost power, slid and collided into an oncoming car.
According to the Meltons, they found a mechanical flaw on their daughter’s car, which allowed the key to slide from “run” to “accessory” position, and shuts off the power steering and power brakes. They settled their case against GM on September 2013 for $5 million.
GM announced the recall of 2.6 million vehicles including Chevy Cobalt, Saturn Ions due to faulty ignition switches caused at least 13 fatalities on February 2014.
The Meltons refiled their case against GM on May. They argued that a key witness, Ray DiGiorgiofrom the automaker committed perjury, and the company suppressed evidence regarding the faulty ignition switches. GM tried to get a dismissal on the case, but the automaker failed.
DeGiorgio was the engineer who designed the ignition switch at GM. He claimed that he did not remember the design change and signed it off. He was among the 15 employees terminated by GM related to the recalls last June.
GM’s accountability: an important issue in the case
In a statement, the lawyers representing the Meltons said the terms of their settlement with GM are confidential. Atty. Kenneth Feinberg, who was hired by GM to supervise the compensation plan for crash victims, played an active role in helping both parties reach an out-of-court settlement.
Lance Cooper, one of the lawyers representing the Meltons said, “One of the most important issues for the Meltons was accountability. This is a company that concealed this defect for years. They wanted to hold GM accountable, and that is what refiling the lawsuit did. They are grieving parents who simply wanted the truth and for no one else to suffer a similar loss.”
GM confirmed the settlement
GM admitted to federal regulators that it has knowledge about the ignition switch problems as early as 2001. A spokesman for the automaker confirmed its settlement with the Meltons, but declined to provide further details.
GM is still facing other litigations related to the faulty ignition switches on its vehicles. A trial is scheduled related to the multi-district litigation case against the company on January 2016.
Atty. Feinberg stated that GM’s compensation fund received 4,343 claims including 478 deaths and 291 catastrophic injuries. According to him, 64 death claims, 11 catastrophic injuries and 97 injuries are deemed eligible for payments so far. The fund is still reviewing 1,571 claims. The payout for death claims starts at a minimum of $1 million.