Since the Melton case has been in the spotlight lately, and because of its utmost importance, I felt an update would be good at this juncture. In an incredible revelation of its true character, General Motors has moved the Melton lawsuit to a federal court. The automaker is either trying to hide behind the protection of its “old GM” bankruptcy firewall or is trying to stall for time. Instead of living up to the promise by its CEO to the American people to do the right thing by victims of its long-withheld ignition switch defect, which has caused hundreds of deaths, GM is trying to again cheat the Melton family.
Ken and Beth Melton, parents of 29-year-old Brooke Melton, who was killed in a 2010 crash linked to the ignition switch defect, refiled their wrongful death lawsuit on behalf of their daughter on May 12. Rather than leaving the civil liability lawsuit in the State Court in Cobb County, Ga., where it was originally filed and where it belongs, GM removed the case to federal court. Based on the removal petition, GM’s goal is to have the case transferred from Georgia to the multidistrict litigation (MDL) in a New York federal court.
We were on track in state court to move forward with getting answers to the lies told by GM in the Melton case. Now GM wants to delay for months on end by moving the case to federal court. It’s most significant that GM did not remove the case when it was initially filed a few years ago. In fact, the case remained in state court for more than two years with no attempt to remove it to federal court. This latest move is blatant evidence that GM is again lying – to Congress, to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), to the public and, most importantly, to the victims’ families. GM has been telling everyone who would listen that the company will do the right thing. But now in the Melton case, GM is trying to move the case from Georgia to New York. We have opposed this wrongful removal and are waiting for a court order.
Not only did GM wrongfully remove the Melton’s case from Cobb County, GM accuses the Meltons of fraudulent conduct in re-filing the lawsuit in Cobb County. It is ironic that in the first court filing by GM after a news conference by Ms. Barra – during which she promised GM would do the right thing – GM and its lawyers accuse the Melton family of fraud when they are simply asking that they have an opportunity to have their day in court.
When GM CEO Mary Barra addressed her employees and the public at a stockholder’s meeting last month, she expressed sympathy for victims and their families, saying:
I realize there are no words of mine that can ease their grief and pain. But as I lead GM through this crisis, I want everyone to know that I am guided by two clear principles: First that we do the right thing for those who were harmed; and, second, that we accept responsibility for our mistakes and commit to doing everything within our power to prevent this problem from ever happening again. We are going to do the right thing for the affected parties.
The action by GM in the Melton case is direct proof that you can’t trust GM. The automaker’s actions speak much louder than its words to the victims’ families. Court documents and other evidence reveal that GM knew about the ignition switch problem as early as 2001. However, GM rejected several design changes and solutions that were recommended by its own engineers on numerous occasions because of the cost and the time it would take to make the changes.
GM’s collective willingness to ignore and cover up known problems is quite evident. The automaker failed to adhere to federal regulations and recall its ignition switches despite years of incident complaints, crash reports, failed engineering tests, and repeated warnings from a GM lawyer that the company “could be accused of egregious conduct” in lawsuits involving Chevy Cobalts and other small cars.
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