(Adds statement from plaintiffs' attorney)
By Jessica Dye
NEW YORK Aug 10 General Motors Co has
lost its bid to dismiss a lawsuit accusing the automaker of
concealing critical evidence about a faulty ignition switch
linked to the death of a Georgia woman in 2010.
During a hearing on Saturday, Cobb County State Court Judge
Kathryn Tanksley denied GM's motion to dismiss the new lawsuit
filed in May by the family of Brooke Melton, according to a
statement from the company.
Melton died in March 2010 when the ignition switch on her
2005 Chevrolet Cobalt slipped into accessory mode and the car
collided with another vehicle, according to the suit.
Ken and Beth Melton, her parents, had previously sued the
company in 2011 and settled in September 2013 for a reported $5
Information that emerged during the original lawsuit -
including a design change to the switch - helped trigger the
recall of 2.6 million GM vehicles, including the Cobalt, and
prompted congressional, federal and other investigations into
whether the company had withheld knowledge of the problem.
After the recall, the Meltons said they asked GM to withdraw
the settlement, but the company refused, according to court
filings. The family then filed a new lawsuit in May claiming
that the company had fraudulently concealed critical evidence
about the switch, and that a GM engineer who testified in the
case had lied under oath about the part.
The Meltons' lawsuit said that the company had purposely
misled them in order to force them to settle their case.
GM had argued that the case should be dismissed because it
had already settled the Meltons' claims over Brooke Melton's
death. But Tanksley said on Saturday that the case could move
forward, according to GM.
The company said it was disappointed in the decision and
continued to believe the lawsuit was blocked by terms of the
2013 settlement. "GM will review the court's order once it is
entered and will evaluate its options," spokesman Pat Morrissey
said in an email.
A lawyer for the Meltons, Lance Cooper, said the ruling
would enable discovery to proceed.
"This will allow the Meltons to finally get the answers to
their questions of who at GM knew about the defects in Brooke's
car, why she was never told about the design change with the
ignition switch and who participated in the decision to conceal
evidence during their previous case."
The Meltons' lawsuit is among dozens to hit the automaker in
the wake of several GM switch-related recalls this year,
including claims for injuries or deaths linked to faulty
ignition switches, as well as customers who say their cars lost
value as a result of the recalls.
The company on Aug. 1 began accepting claims for a program
to compensate serious injuries and deaths in accidents tied to
defective switches in the Cobalt, the Saturn Ion and related
Although the program is accepting claims from people who
previously settled crash lawsuits against the company, lawyers
for the Meltons have previously told Reuters that they intend to
pursue their case in court.
(Reporting by Jessica Dye in New York; Editing by Marguerita