The family of perhaps the best-known of the victims General Motors’ faulty ignition switch, Brooke Melton, is refiling its civil liability suit against the automaker – after agreeing to a settlement earlier.
The filing alleges a GM representative lied about his knowledge of the problem. Lance Cooper and Jere Beasley, attorneys for Ken and Beth Melton, parents of Brooke Melton who died behind the wheel of a 2005 Chevy Cobalt, claim that GM CEO Mary Barra’s assertion that one of the engineers involved in the case may have lied under oath gives them the green light to refile their lawsuit. Barra’s claim came during her testimony in congressional hearings in early April.
“The Meltons would not have settled their case if they had known of the perjury and concealment of critical evidence,” said Cooper, founding partner of the Cooper Firm in Marietta, Ga., in a statement.
“It is now apparent that GM’s plan was to resolve the Meltons’ claims before disclosing the Cobalt ignition switch design changes.”
The lawsuit comes after GM rejected a request to rescind the original claim last month, the attorney said.
GM engineer Ray DeGiorgio, project engineer responsible for the ignition switch on the Cobalt, testified that he did not authorize or know of any changes during a deposition. According to the suit, GM has since told the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and Congress that those statements are false. The firm asked GM if it would be willing to reopen the claim and the automaker declined.
GM declined to comment on the suit other than to reiterate it stands by the initial response by Robert Ellis, GM’s attorney.
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“As an initial matter, General Motors LLC (“GM”) denies the assertion that GM fraudulently concealed relevant and critical facts in connection with the Melton matter. And GM denies it engaged in any improper behavior in that action.”
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“The response by GM and its lawyers validates our decision,” Ken and Beth Melton said in a joint statement. “We are hopeful that this new lawsuit will uncover who at GM knew about the design change and why Brooke was never told.”
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Brooke Melton died March 10, 2010, when she lost control of her car on Hwy 92 in Paulding County, Ga. Melton’s Cobalt skidded into another vehicle, and Melton died of her injuries in the crash. Melton’s family alleges the defect, which can cause the vehicle’s engine to shut off cutting power to the anti-lock brakes, airbags and power steering, causes her lose control of the Cobalt.
The defect has been attributed to 31 accidents and 13 deaths. As a result, GM recalled 2.6 million small cars costing the automaker more than $1.3 billion.