November 30, 2021

Judge tosses bid to remove plaintiffs lawyers in GM litigation

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FILE - In this April 1, 2014, file photo, Clarence Ditlow, executive director of the Center for Auto Safety, displays a GM ignition switch similar to those linked to 13 deaths and dozens of crashes of General Motors small cars like the Chevy Cobalt, during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington. A civil trial starting January 2016 in New York City will test the legal boundaries of hundreds of claims remaining against General Motors over faulty ignition switches. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)

FILE – In this April 1, 2014, file photo, Clarence Ditlow, executive director of the Center for Auto Safety, displays a GM ignition switch similar to those linked to 13 deaths and dozens of crashes of General Motors small cars like the Chevy Cobalt, during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington. A civil trial starting January 2016 in New York City will test the legal boundaries of hundreds of claims remaining against General Motors over faulty ignition switches. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)

By Amanda Bronstad, From New York Law Journal

A federal judge struck down a bid to remove lead plaintiffs attorneys in the GM ignition switch litigation, saying the request smacked of “Monday morning quarterbacking.”

Southern District Judge Jesse Furman on Wednesday found that a motion filed by attorney Lance Cooper to eject attorneys leading the multidistrict litigation against General Motor Co. over ignition switch defects lacked evidence to support what were at times “wild accusations.”

The judge also found that a second motion to probe into a confidential settlement between one of those lawyers and GM bordered on frivolous.

Cooper, a former member of the multidistrict litigation’s executive committee and the lawyer who first uncovered the ignition switch defect, filed a motion last month to remove the three lead attorneys after the plaintiff in the first bellwether trial withdrew his case on Jan. 22 amid revelations that he might have committed perjury and fraud.

Cooper, of The Cooper Firm in Marietta, Georgia, also filed a motion accusing one of the lead counsel, Robert Hilliard, of cutting a backroom deal with GM as part of a Sept. 17 settlement of 1,380 of his clients that would ensure his own cases got scheduled for bellwether trials.

Lance Cooper.  Photo by John Disney/Daily Report.

Lance Cooper. Photo by John Disney/Daily Report.

In Wednesday’s order, Furman found that Cooper’s first motion sounded like “Monday morning quarterbacking” and that some of his allegations were unsupported and “accusations of impropriety and underhandedness on the part of lead counsel.”

Cooper’s request did “not even come close to providing a legal basis for the drastic step of removing lead counsel in the middle of MDL proceedings that, all things considered, have proceeded remarkably smoothly and swiftly to date,” he wrote.

He said Cooper’s second motion to reconsider his approval of Hilliard’s settlement fund bordered on frivolous given that 25 trials against GM were scheduled this year in federal and state court involving various plaintiffs counsel—including Cooper himself.

Cooper did not respond to a request for comment.

Robert C. Hilliard, a partner in Hilliard Muñoz Gonzales in Corpus Christi.  HANDOUT.

Robert C. Hilliard, a partner in Hilliard Muñoz Gonzales in Corpus Christi. HANDOUT.

Hilliard, of Hilliard Muñoz Gonzales in Corpus Christi, Texas, wrote in an email: “Though Mr. Cooper’s motions were intended to distract those who are dedicated to successfully moving this litigation forward, we never stopped working tirelessly on behalf of the victims who suffered the deadly consequences of GM’s conduct. We will continue our fight.”

Furman also warned the lawyers “to stop litigating their grievances with one another (especially through the press) and return to focusing on their common adversary, New GM, and on obtaining relief for their respective clients.”

IMAGES:

A GM ignition switch similar to those involved in litigation against the automaker AP/J. Scott Applewhite

Lance Cooper of The Cooper Firm in Marietta, Georgia John Disney/Daily Report

Robert Hilliard of Hilliard Muñoz Gonzales in Corpus Christi, Texas

For more on this story go to: http://www.newyorklawjournal.com/id=1202749414985/Judge-Tosses-Bid-to-Remove-Plaintiffs-Lawyers-in-GM-Litigation#ixzz3zsMS0tsA

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