GM’s fund for the benefit of victims that sued the automaker over the ignition-switch scandal has been challenged by a plaintiff’s lawyer who claims the attorney who negotiated the settlement was part of a conflict of interest.
The lawsuits that General Motors faces over the faulty ignitions switches are bringing out all sorts of allegations, from all directions. According to a filing by Lance Cooper, a lawyer who represents a number of plaintiffs, one of the attorneys leading the federal switch litigation, Robert Hilliard, closed the settlement mostly to his own benefit, as well as to the benefit of his own clients. Furthermore, the accusations pointed towards Hilliard claim that the deal struck with GM is limiting the carmaker’s financial risk over the defect. In September, GM offered around 595 million dollars to victims through a fund managed by compensation expert Kenneth Feinberg. Cooper has asked the US District Judge who oversees federal switch lawsuits to rescind approval of the settlement fund, and to remove Hilliard and co-counsel Steve Berman and Elizabeth Cabraser from lead roles in the litigation. In two separate filings, GM and the lead counsel for people suing over the defect are asking the Judge to reject motions recently filed by Cooper.
Two weeks ago, the first federal trial over GM’s faulty ignition switches came to an early end after the plaintiff voluntarily dismissed his case, also agreeing not to take any compensation from the automaker. The unexpected outcome came in the wake of allegations that the Scheuer family from Oklahoma, represented by Hilliard, may have given false testimony to jurors. They were accused of lying about the circumstances surrounding their family’s eviction from their home months after they said Robert Scheuer was injured in an accident involving a car affected by the faulty switch recall.