Philadelphia products liability attorney Dianne Nast has been appointed by a federal judge to the executive committee overseeing the General Motors ignition-switch multidistrict litigation.
U.S. District Judge Jesse Furman of the Southern District of New York appointed Nast to the 10-member executive committee Tuesday.
Nast told The Legal that she was intrigued by the litigation because of its multifaceted nature, involving personal injury claims, economic loss claims, and bankruptcy.
On applying for a position on the committee. Nast said, “I can’t imagine not putting my name in for the position; it’s a very large and very interesting case,” adding, “it’s too interesting a case from a practitioner’s standpoint not to be involved.”
The plaintiffs in the litigation claim ignition-switch defects in GM vehicles caused cars to shut off while in motion. This led to power steering deactivation, air bag deployment failure, and subsequent crashes.
Nast said she represents roughly 150 clients and expects more to join in the litigation. Of those clients, Nast said half submitted personal injury claims and the other half made claims of economic damages, specifically that the resale value of their GM vehicles dramatically decreased because of the ignition defects.
“The claim is that nobody is going to want to buy these cars used; they will be severely devalued,” Nast said.
Being on the committee is not Nast’s first leadership role; she also serves as co-lead counsel in the Zoloft multidistrict litigation’s plaintiffs steering committee, and for years has been a major player in mass tort litigation around the country. The Zoloft MDL is currently being heard by U.S. District Judge Cynthia Rufe of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.
In addition to her court-appointed leadership role in the Zoloft MDL, Nast is also a member of the Avandia plaintiffs advisory committee in the Avandia products liability litigation and had served as co-liaison counsel in Philadelphia for the Yasmin/Yaz products liability litigation.
Nast said the GM litigation executive committee is “geographically diverse,” with attorneys from California, Texas and Florida, among other states.
The first task for the committee, Nast said, will be drafting a single consolidated complaint for the hundreds of plaintiffs involved in the case. After that comes discovery and depositions.
Additionally, Nast said, “We will be preparing a trial package so that people who want to try their cases won’t have to reinvent the wheel.”
She also noted that there are cases pending in various state courts that won’t be removed to the MDL.
“There will be pockets of litigation in different states across the country,” Nast said. “Certainly we’ll attempt to coordinate with them, but there’s no official obligation.”
Matthew Casey of Ross Feller Casey said his firm is handling several ignition-failure cases against GM in Philadelphia and Luzerne counties.
“While each case may have a different presentation of the basic issues, generally speaking you have both the ignition failure and … the failure for air bags to deploy,” Casey said.
He added that in some of the cases, his firm had been contacted by GM’s compensation fund, helmed by nationally known attorney Kenneth Feinberg’s firm, Feinberg Rozen.
Casey said he thought that Feinberg and his partner, Michael Rozen, were honorable and would “do a fine job with the compensation fund.”
However, he added, “Both lawyers and their clients need to understand that Ken Feinberg and Mike Rozen and the folks in the compensation fund are working for General Motors, they’re not working for their clients … while they are very experienced and good people, it would be a mistake for plaintiffs to fail to get the advice and counsel of an experienced lawyer and present their claim to the compensation fund.”
Nast expressed confidence in Feinberg’s negotiating abilities, calling him “terrific” and “one of the best.”
“He’s had so much experience in so many different cases, he’s very effective,” Nast said. “He’s a solid negotiator, a straight-shooter.”