GM Settles Again in Georgia Death Case

DETROIT (Detroit Free Press/TNS) -

General Motors has settled a lawsuit filed by the parents of Brooke Melton, a Georgia pediatric nurse, who died in a March 2010 crash involving her 2005 Chevrolet Cobalt.

Evidence found by the Meltons’ attorney, Lance Cooper, showed that a GM engineer, Ray DeGiorgio, had changed the design of an ignition switch but failed to change the part number of the new switch.

GM CEO Mary Barra fired DeGiorgio and 14 other employees, including several senior attorneys for acting inappropriately in the wake of the ignition-switch crisis.

Beth and Ken Melton, Brooke’s parents, had accepted a $5 million settlement in September 2013 after GM acknowledged that the ignition switch in Brooke’s car was defective, but the automaker claimed it didn’t know the part had been redesigned for later models.

But GM in February 2014 announced the first recall that later expanded to cover about 2.5 million small cars, mostly Cobalts and Saturn Ions from 2003 through 2007 model years, that were equipped with the ignition switches that could slip from the “on” to “accessory” position, cutting electricity to steering, air bags and other features.

In April 2014, after GM disclosed more about what some employees knew, the Meltons asked to rescind the settlement, offered to return the money and filed a second lawsuit. They sought compensation for Brooke’s death on the grounds GM knew the car was defective and failed to disclose everything it knew about the ignition switches.

Neither Cooper, Alabama attorney Jere Beasley, who also represented the Melton family, nor General Motors would comment on the amount of the new settlement.

Cooper did say that Ken Feinberg, the head of the GM Ignition Compensation Fund, took an active role in trying to settle the case.

Feinberg and his staff have offered 64 other settlements to families whose loved ones died in crashes caused by the defective ignitions. They also have approved offers for 108 people who were injured. As of March 6, the compensation fund had 1,571 more applications to review.

The deadline for filing applications was Jan. 31, 2015. GM has estimated the Feinberg compensation fund will cost the company between $400 million and $600 million.