GM’s documents over its faulty ignition switches, which could bring some light over the matter, remain classified, a Manhattan federal judge ruled last week.
The drivers hoping to demonstrate that General Motors has committed fraud by deliberately concealing the ignition switches issues have received a legal hit as a Manhattan federal judge ruled that the automaker does not need to turn over privileged documents regarding the problem. Despite finding “probable cause” to believe GM committed a crime or fraud by hiding the defect from regulators and the public, U.S. District Judge Jesse Furman found no showing that the automaker and its King & Spalding firm produced the documents with an intent to further such misconduct.
Most of the documents were related to the law firm’s advice from 2010 to 2013 on three crashes involving Chevrolet Cobalts. Vehicle owners said the deception justified a waiver of attorney-client privilege. “Put simply, plaintiffs do not provide a factual basis for a good faith belief that the communications and work product they seek – let alone any particular communications or work product they seek – were made with the intent to further a crime or fraud,” Furman wrote.
King & Spalding spokeswoman Micheline Tang said Furman’s decision shows that the firm’s lawyers “did exactly what one would expect ethical and diligent litigators to do.” The defect on Cobalts, Saturn Ions and other vehicles has been linked to at least 124 deaths. GM began recalling 2.6 million vehicles to fix the defect in February 2014, despite being aware of a possible problem as long as a decade earlier.