| NEW YORK
NEW YORK Aug 15 A U.S. judge has appointed two
lawyers who led cases against Toyota Motor Corp and a
plaintiffs' attorney from Texas to lead litigation against
General Motors Co related to a faulty ignition switch
that prompted the recall of millions of vehicles this year.
U.S. District Judge Jesse Furman in the Southern District of
New York, who is overseeing more than 100 cases against GM, on
Friday tapped attorneys Steve Berman, Elizabeth Cabraser and
Robert Hilliard as co-lead counsel.
Hilliard was among the first attorneys to sue GM following
its announcement in February that it was recalling millions of
vehicles because of a problem with the ignition switch that
could cause it to slip out of position, leading to stalled
vehicles and disabled air bags, power steering and power brakes.
"I'm ready to roll up my sleeves and get to the bottom of
the fraud and who's responsible for a generation's worth of
losses," he told Reuters on Friday.
The lead lawyers will be expected to invest substantial time
and resources in the high-profile litigation, in hopes of
recovering a share of legal fees from any settlement or judgment
GM's faulty ignition switches have been linked to at least
13 deaths, and the automaker is under investigation by U.S.
safety regulators, Congress and the U.S. Department of Justice
over its failure to detect the problems for more than a decade.
Berman and Cabraser were among the lead plaintiffs' lawyers
in litigation against Toyota over acceleration problems starting
in 2010. In 2012, Toyota settled economic-loss claims stemming
from its acceleration-related recalls in a deal valued at $1.6
billion. The company is in talks to settle personal-injury and
Berman said in an email to Reuters that he was honored by
the appointment. Cabraser said she looked forward to working
with the other lead lawyers both for victims of crashes linked
to the switch and customers who said they suffered economic
losses, such as reduced vehicle value.
Berman and Cabraser, along with another lead lawyer for
Toyota plaintiffs, Mark Robinson, had been appointed by Furman
to serve as temporary co-lead counsel at the outset of the
Robinson was appointed to the executive committee, along
with other well-known plaintiffs' lawyers including David Boies
and Joseph Rice.
Also serving on that committee will be Lance Cooper, lawyer
for the parents of Brooke Melton, who was killed in a 2010 crash
that their lawsuit said was caused by the switch. That lawsuit
helped expose the switch issue, leading to the first of several
switch-related recalls by GM.
Friday's order followed a marathon hearing in federal court
on Monday, in which nearly 40 lawyers appeared before Furman to
seek one of 15 positions leading the litigation.
Furman has set the next status conference in the cases for
(Editing by Alexia Garamfalvi and Matthew Lewis)