Family's Suit Against GM Remanded to State Court
(CN) - Parents of a woman killed in a car crash allegedly caused by a defective General Motors ignition switch can press their claims against the automotive giant, a federal judge ruled.
The ruling in the federal court in Atlanta, remanding the case back to a state court, is a victory for Kenneth and Mary Melton, who claim their daughter Brooke died when the ignition switch of her 2005 Chevrolet Cobalt turned off as she was driving, causing her to lose control and crash.
The Meltons sued GM and Thornton Chevrolet in 2011 and settled the case in 2013. After the case was settled, GM went on to recall millions of vehicles due to an ignition switch flaw.
In April, the Meltons attempted to rescind the settlement and return the money, claiming GM "fraudulently concealed relevant evidence and affirmatively misled them."
GM refused and the Meltons refilled the suit in Cobb County Court . They also renewed their negligence claim against Thornton, servicer of the Cobalt, after voluntarily dropping the claim during settlement negotiations.
GM removed the case to Federal Court on the basis of diversity jurisdiction.
But US District Judge Thomas W. Thrash, Jr. remanded the case, ruling GM failed to satisfy the "heavy burden" of establishing fraudulent joinder.
GM claimed the Meltons fraudulently named Thornton, a Georgia business, as a defendant to keep the case in state court.
A hearing in state court could be beneficial for the Meltons because GM can't merge the case with others filed in Federal Court, which will speed up proceedings, and the case would be heard by a local jury, who could be more sympathetic to the Meltons' claims.
GM argued that there was "no real connection" between the claims asserted against itself and Thronton. Thrash disagreed, finding the claims arise from the same accident.
"The Plaintiffs assert that GM is liable for having designed the ignition switch and that Thornton is liable because it failed to diagnose and correct the alleged defect," Thrash wrote.
Cobb County Court Judge Kathryn Tanksley will now decide if the case should be reopened.