Almost all of these documents bear relation to the advice offered by the law firm between 2010-13 and involve three crashes involving Chevrolet Cobalt vehicles.
According to a Manhattan federal judge, General Motors Co and its law firm are not required to hand over its privileged documents to drivers. The latter are hoping to showcase how the company’s intent was to commit a fraud or crime by hiding defective ignition switches in their cars. In spite of finding a probable cause to believe that the company did commit fraud or a possible crime by concealing this defect from vehicle regulators and the car buying public, District Judge Jesse Furman did not find anything to suggest that the law firm King & Spalding and GM made these documents to further misconduct.
According to car owners, the deception only vindicated the waiver of client-attorney privileges. According to the judge, plaintiffs do not actually provide factual bases for beliefs that their work products and communications even specifically, are made with an intention to expand a fraud or crime. Vehicle owners already possessed several documents according to the judge and the work of King & Spalding was a sober and dispassionate evaluation. The decision is a minor victory for General Motors as it ups the ante for the trial over the ignition switch defect on the 11th of January, 2016. The defect could cause stalling of engines and prevent the deployment of airbags in crashes or emergency situations.
The defects on GM vehicles including the Cobalt and Saturn Ion have been connected to at least 124 such deaths. In February 2014, the company started recalling around 2.6 million cars to fix this problem in spite of being aware about the possibilities of the same at least a decade back. GM has also agreed to pay $900 million and take part in the deferred prosecution agreement for concluding a criminal probe.
According to company spokesperson, the court’s ruling does give the company immense pleasure as it did not conspire with its law firm to commit any further fraud or crime. Jurors in the upcoming trial will have to determine the levels of financial punishment that is suitable to be levied upon the company as the client-attorney privilege issue is quite hard to overcome by all means as substantiated by leading lawyers. The law firm’s spokeswoman chose not to comment. The Judge, Furman, oversees in excess of 200 lawsuits relating to ignition switches.