by John Bair
In August, plaintiffs’ lawyers argued that threatening behavior from General Motors (GM) thwarted a settlement agreement for claims surrounding faulty ignition switches and other vehicle defects.
According to an article in Reuters, GM had been agreeing to pay $1 billion in shares to resolve claims stemming from the 2014 recall of 2.6 million vehicles with defective ignition switches, along with millions of additional claims involving economic loss and hundreds more involving personal injury, and wrongful death.
The plaintiffs’ lawyers allege the agreement was confirmed — although trust representatives had not yet signed the deal — when the agreement suddenly reversed course. A subsequent court filing accepted GM’s offer to help pay for the trust to defend against the claims in exchange for dropping the agreement.
Plaintiff lawyer Edward Weisfelner argues that while the plaintiffs “… have no reason to know this for a fact,” the sudden about-face resulted from “… some very direct, very serious threats issued either by GM or GM’s professionals.”
Lawyers for GM and the trust reject the allegations. Attorney Arthur Steinberg said the previous, unsigned agreement between the trust and the plaintiffs was not binding. “The judge has outlined a process to begin to resolve the issues raised,” a statement from GM says. “We will follow the process, and we look forward to the eventual approval of our settlement agreement.”
This is a classic David v. Goliath case, and if General Motors did threaten to use their power and influence to undermine others, these allegations could be very serious.