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
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 million.
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 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.
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"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
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 models.
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
(Reporting by Jessica Dye in New York; Editing by Marguerita Choy)
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