| NEW YORK
NEW YORK Aug 11 Lawyers from across the United
States gathered in Manhattan Monday to jockey for leadership
roles in litigation against General Motors over a faulty
ignition switch that has prompted the recall of millions of
Nearly 40 lawyers waited for hours to make four-minute
pitches to U.S. District Judge Jesse Furman, who is overseeing
the cases, during a marathon hearing in the U.S. District Court
for the Southern District of New York.
Numerous other lawyers have submitted written applications
for one of 15 lead spots in the litigation, which so far
consists of 109 cases involving claims over personal injuries
and diminished vehicle value related to the recall.
Since February, GM has recalled 2.6 million vehicles over
problems with the ignition switch, and has since recalled
millions more with other possible defects.
Some well-known lawyers were among those making their cases
Monday, including David Boies, a high-profile litigator who has
handled marquee same-sex marriage and antitrust cases, and
Joseph Rice, who has represented plaintiffs in mass litigation
over asbestos, tobacco and the 2010 BP oil spill.
Boies, who is applying to serve as one of three lead counsel
or alternatively on the 10-member executive committee, said his
national profile and his firm's resources would give plaintiffs
an edge in court.
"This is an important case, a high-profile case, and you
need the very best lawyers," he told Furman. "This is not a time
for false modesty."
The lawyers Furman appoints will be expected to devote
substantial time and resources to litigation efforts up front,
in hopes of recovering a sizable share of legal fees from any
eventual settlement or judgment.
Also seeking top roles Monday were a number of lawyers who
led litigation against Toyota Motor Corp over acceleration
issues starting in 2010. Furman has appointed Steve Berman,
Elizabeth Cabraser and Mark Robinson, who helped spearhead those
cases, to serve as temporary lead counsel in the GM litigation.
Furman cautioned that the current assignments did not guarantee
them a future role.
Berman said the Toyota litigation would be a valuable road
map for plaintiffs suing GM. Toyota settled economic-loss claims
stemming from the acceleration litigation in 2012 in a deal
valued at $1.6 billion.
"I spent two and a half years of my life dealing with the
issues (in Toyota) that we'll deal with here," he told Furman.
Furman said he planned to make the appointments by the end
of the week.
(Reporting by Jessica Dye; Editing by Ted Botha and David