GM Settles Landmark Suit Over Deadly Ignition Switches

Brooke Melton died in a 2010 crash of this 2005 Chevrolet Cobalt, one of millions of GM cars later recalled for defective ignition switches. GM settled a lawsuit by Melton's parents. (Photo: AP)
Brooke Melton died in a 2010 crash of this 2005 Chevrolet Cobalt, one of millions of GM cars later recalled for defective ignition switches. GM settled a lawsuit by Melton’s parents.
(Photo: AP)

A landmark ignition-switch lawsuit against General Motors was settled today, but details are confidential.

The case was brought by the parents of Brooke Melton, who died in 2010 on her 29th birthday when the faulty ignition switch in her 2005 Chevrolet Cobalt failed and the car went out of control.

The Meltons, represented by Marietta, Ga., lawyer Lance Cooper, previously accepted a $5 million settlement from GM and refused to sign a keep-quiet provision.

Depositions collected in that earlier suit showed that GM knew about the defective switches at least as far back as 2004 — though it failed to begin recalling millions of vehicles equipped with the switches until 2014.

USA TODAY was first to disclose the content of the depositions and the long delay in recalling potentially faulty cars.

Government investigations followed, accompanied by increasing numbers of GM models recalled — 5.88 million in the U.S. eventually, marking it the fourth-largest auto recall in history, according to federal officials.

GM took a $2.8 billion charge to earnings the first half last year.

Under newly minted CEO Mary Barra, GM set up a victims compensation fund administered independently. As of Monday, the fund had approved 64 claims for deaths linked to the switches. GM says it expects to pay some $600 million in compensation claims.

Those who accept the fund compensation agree not to sue.

The Meltons were eligible to apply to the fund, but chose instead to sue GM again, claiming it had defrauded them in the original settlement, and offering to repay the amount.

“The case is settled,” GM spokesman Jim Cain said, declining to elaborate.

Cooper, since teamed in the Melton case with the Beasley Allen law firm in Montgomery, Ala., announced Friday that the “defective ignition switch case (is) resolved with confidential settlement.”

The Melton lawyers will host a conference call Monday to discuss the case.

SOURCE: USA Today – James R. Healey

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