NEW YORK – A Georgia judge has denied a motion by General Motors to dismiss a wrongful death case against the automaker and set a trial date for April 2016.
The family of Brooke Melton, a 29-year-old nurse who died in a 2010 car crash near Atlanta, sued GM, alleging that a faulty ignition switch in her 2005 Chevrolet Cobalt unexpectedly shut off the engine, causing her to lose control of the car.
They settled last year with GM for $5 million, but the case exposed how GM let millions of cars stay on the road even after discovering ignition switch flaws linked to at least 13 deaths. The case led to GM recalling 2.6 million older small cars to replace faulty switches.
The Meltons filed a new complaint in May that GM fraudulently concealed evidence during the first case.
Meanwhile, GM had filed for dismissal of the case because they said it had already been settled, but that was denied on Saturday.
“We continue to believe that the parties reached a good faith settlement last year and that the court’s prior order dismissing all claims against GM with prejudice after that settlement prevents plaintiffs from pursuing the same claims a second time,” GM said in a statement. “GM will review the court’s order once it is entered and will evaluate its options.”
Lance Cooper, an attorney for the Meltons, said a judge gave GM two weeks to respond to a document request from the Meltons attorneys. He added it will be up to the jury to decide if the Meltons need to return the $5 million they were awarded in the settlement. They had offered to return it in an effort to reopen the case.
The Melton case touched off a recall crisis at GM that has resulted in 54 recalls involving 29 million vehicles this year. And it brought federal investigations, cover-up allegations and a $35 million fine from federal regulators for delays in reporting safety problems.