US District Judge Jesse Furman in Manhattan recently decided not to allow access to the GM notes from the lawyers of the company hired by the automaker to do a full internal investigation.
Back in February, General Motors acknowledged a recall that would encompass 2.6 million older cars equipped with deadly ignition switches. So far, the defective part has been linked to at least 45 deaths and spurred an unprecedented recall year for the No. 1 US carmaker – over 27 million autos were involved in safety campaigns last year. In its bid to find out why it took more than a decade to recall the cars, the automaker hired an outside law firm to conduct an internal, independent probe. Now the litigators of both the company and plaintiffs’ are quarreling over the notes prepared for the internal report on the part mishandling and errors. The interview notes from the so-called “Valukas report” – named for Anton Valukas, chairman of law firm Jenner & Block, have been deemed inaccessible by the New York judge, considering they were protected by attorney-client privilege.
General Motors, on a huge backlash from the public opinion and the US government and federal regulators over the mishandling of the recall, decided to hire last year Valukas, a former federal prosecutor, to embark on a much needed review of the company in a bid to find out what went wrong – taking so much time for the company to order a safety campaign. The carmaker has already set up an ignition switch victims’ compensation fund that seeks to resolve claims stemming from the flawed part – with the outside lawyer Kenneth Feinberg and his team already identifying 45 fatalities.