Lance Cooper, a Georgia attorney whose wrongful death lawsuit vs General Motors led to a recall of 2.59 million cars over faulty ignition switches, has filed a new complaint in Georgia state court in Marietta, asking a judge to reopen the matter. GM settled the case in September 2013 with Cooper’s clients, parents of Brooke Melton, who died in 2010 when her 2005 Chevy Cobalt lost power in a crash tied to the faulty ignition switch.
Cooper is claiming that the carmaker fraudulently withheld information ahead of a settlement. The move may lead to discovery of more information over the level of knowledge has and to what extent its executives know about the faulty ignition switches tied to at least 13 deaths.
Carl Tobias, who teaches product-liability law at the University of Richmond in Virginia, told Bloomberg that proving fraud is not an easy task since courts are reluctant to reopen tort settlement agreements. This means that courts impose a “rigorous proof burden” on lawyers or plaintiff seeking to do so.
GM has indicated in a timeline that its engineers were aware of the faulty ignition switch as early as 2001. In 2006, GM engineer Ray DeGiorgio approved a medication of the part’s spec, according to another document provided by GM.
In the new complaint, Cooper claims that DeGiorgio lied under oath in 2013 when the engineer denied knowledge of any change to the switch’s design. According to the court filing, GM gas affirmed DeGiorgio’s allegedly fraudulent responses.
Cooper also claims that GM’s conduct entailed “bad faith of the highest order.” Cooper is seeking sanctions against the carmaker over the alleged misconduct as part of the new lawsuit. Cooper said in an e-mailed statement to Bloomberg that the Meltons would not have settled their case if they had known of the perjury and concealment of critical evidence. [source: Bloomberg]