In 2011, her parents filed suit against GM and last September reached a settlement, the amount of which remains confidential. Their case has been credited by auto safety experts with exposing that GM knew about the ignition-switch defect for more than a decade and resulting in the recall of more than 1.6 million GM vehicles.
The Meltons’ new lawsuit alleges that, during the course of the previous litigation, GM fraudulently denied that any employee authorized or even knew of any design change in Cobalt ignition switches before Brooke’s deadly crash. It notes that GM lead design engineer Ray DeGiorgio repeatedly testified that he did not authorize or know of any such changes.
But recent disclosures by GM to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and to Congress contradict the company’s earlier assertions that GM employees were unaware of any design changes to the switches, the new suit says.
Lance Cooper, the Meltons’ lead attorney, said his clients believe the new lawsuit “is the best opportunity to discover the whole truth about GM’s decision to secretly redesign the ignition switch and why Brooke was never told of this change.” They never would have settled their case when they did “if they had known of the perjury and concealment of critical evidence,” Cooper said.
The Meltons settled their case believing that GM knew nothing about the design switch change, he added. “In other words, they took GM and their lawyers at their word. They now know they were lied to.”
After the recent disclosures came to light, the Meltons asked GM on April 11 to rescind the original settlement.
But GM refused. In response, the company’s attorney, Robert Ellis, wrote the automaker “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.”
On Monday, GM said it stands by that same statement.
The Meltons’ new lawsuit was assigned to Cobb State Court Judge Kathryn Tanksley. She must now decide whether to rescind the settlement agreement and allow the new claims to proceed toward trial. Her decision is expected in the coming months.
If the case does go forward, Cooper said, he may try to get pretrial testimony from GM Chief Executive Officer Mary Barra and the company’s in-house lawyers.