GM CEO, Others to Be Deposed Over Defect | News | HMG LLP

GM CEO Mary Barra, Others to Be Deposed Over Defective Switches

August 31, 2017

Source: Wall Street Journal, by Jeff Bennett & Mike Spector

General Motors Co. Chief Executive Mary Barra will be deposed in October by lawyers representing consumers suing the auto maker over defective ignition switches equipped on millions of recalled vehicles.

Ms. Barra will testify under oath in the deposition Oct. 8, one of the lawyers, Bob Hilliard, and a GM spokesman said.

Attorney Robert Hilliard

Other current and former GM employees are expected to be deposed as part of the so-called multidistrict litigation, with the first legal examinations kicking off in May. Alicia Boler-Davis, a senior vice president overseeing vehicle connectivity, will sit for a deposition May 6.

The depositions are being taken as part of purported class-action suits consolidated in a federal-district court in New York. The depositions will be coordinated with lawyers pursuing various state legal actions against GM, the company spokesman said.

The depositions underscore the legal challenges that remain for the largest U.S. auto maker as it tries to move on from a recall crisis that consumed Ms. Barra's first year as chief executive.

In addition to litigation, the auto maker faces a probe by the U.S. Justice Department that could result in a hefty fine. GM also awaits a decision from a federal bankruptcy judge on whether it can retain a legal shield blocking claims from certain other aggrieved customers over the switch. Some of those say they suffered declining resale values on their vehicles as a result of the recalls.

An investigation by outside lawyer Anton Valukas found GM knew for more than a decade about the problematic ignition switch before finally recalling roughly 2.6 million older cars in early 2014. The switch can slip into the "accessory" position, cutting power to safety features including air bags. Kenneth Feinberg, an outside lawyer running a victims compensation fund for GM, has so far tied 67 deaths to the safety defect.

The coming depositions precede a trial in the consolidated lawsuits against GM in New York that is set for January.

"This will be the first time GM employees in a court of law will be made to answer difficult questions under oath about the specific details of the documents and their role in these deaths and injuries,"Mr. Hilliard, who is representing hundreds of victims in those cases, said in an interview on Thursday.

Ms. Barra has made multiple trips to Capitol Hill and testified under oath before lawmakers. In that testimony, Ms. Barra said she and her executive team weren't aware of the ignition-switch problem until early January 2014. A recall was issued shortly thereafter.

GM last week settled all litigation with the family of a Georgia woman whose death helped set off the company's recall crisis. Including an accepted claim from GM's compensation fund, the parents of Brooke Melton will receive more than $5 million from the auto maker. Ms. Melton, 29 years old, died in March 2010 when the ignition switch on her 2005 Cobalt slipped into the accessory position, casting her car to skid into another vehicle and roll into a creek.

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