Plaintiffs Lawyers Pursue GM Defect Claims Along Two Paths

Plaintiffs Lawyers Pursue GM Defect Claims Along Two Paths Photo courtesy of Beasley Allen. Vehicle photo taken by law enforcement at the crash scene of Daniel Hollaert, 23, who died on Dec. 17, 2013, when his 2006 Chevy Cobalt crashed into a school bus in Orleans County, N.Y.

A plaintiffs firm that has sued General Motors Co. over accidents related to an ignition-switch defect is continuing to file lawsuits even as its clients prepare to make claims against a victim-compensation fund.

Beasley, Allen, Crow, Methvin, Portis & Miles of Montgomery, which claims to be investigating more than 250 crashes that could be linked to ignition-switch problems, filed suit on Wednesday on behalf of Daniel Hollaert, 23, who died on Dec. 17, 2013, when his 2006 Chevy Cobalt crashed into a school bus in Orleans County, N.Y.

The suit, filed in Monroe County, N.Y., Supreme Court, a trial venue, blames the crash on the defect, which GM has acknowledged can shut down engines, disabling airbags, power steering and other functions.

The suit came the same day that a lawyer for Hollaert’s family, Beasley Allen founding shareholder Jere Beasley, met with Kenneth Feinberg, who is administering a fund to compensate people who died or were injured as a result of GM’s defect. Beasley said that making claims against the fund doesn’t bar his clients from filing lawsuits against GM.

“We’re going to file suit in every case, and then submit claims to the fund, and then do an evaluation,” he said. “I still believe they will be punished by a jury at some point.”

GM, which has recalled 2.6 million cars and trucks over the defect, including the 2006 Cobalt, announced the compensation program on June 30. The fund, which will begin accepting claims on Aug. 1, would provide at least $1 million to each deceased victim and millions more for people injured.

Beasley Allen, which unsuccessfully pushed for the victim-compensation fund to pay punitive damages, pursues punitive claims in Wednesday’s lawsuit.

GM spokesman Kevin Kelly declined to comment.

Beasley is one of the harshest critics of the fund, which limits compensation to the cars and trucks that were recalled in three batches beginning in February. GM has issued additional recalls of more than 12 million vehicles since then for ignition problems.

On Wednesday, Beasley and Beasley Allen shareholder J. Cole Portis, along with Lance Cooper, founder of The Cooper Firm in Marietta, Ga., met with Feinberg in Atlanta.

Beasley said the details of the conversation were confidential. “I can’t say much more about the meeting itself except to say we’re willing to put cases into the plan to see if in fact it will work.”

Contact Amanda Bronstad at abronstad@alm.com.

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