May 21, 2014 at 12:56 pm

GM, Delphi ask Texas high court to transfer lawsuits over defective ignition switches

General Motors Co. and Delphi Automotive Systems LLC have asked the Supreme Court of Texas to transfer lawsuits filed in Texas against them regarding defective ignition switches to a state multidistrict litigation panel, a move that one Texas attorney hopes to halt.

The Detroit automaker and supplier Delphi on Tuesday asked for the move to consolidate and coordinate pre-trials in alleged personal injury or wrongful death cases, as the companies said they expect additional cases will be filed. The companies are asking for trial proceedings to stop until the panel decides whether to consolidate.

“Litigating each of these matters separately will involve enormous time and expense,” GM and Delphi said in the filing.

“As we state in our filing: ‘Absent transfer to a single judge, defendants may face the burden of producing some of the same witnesses and documents in separate proceedings governed by different, and possibly conflicting, pretrial rulings,’” GM spokesman Greg Martin said in a statement. “‘...This waste of resources of the parties, their counsel and the judiciary is unnecessary. The appointment of a single pretrial judge to hear common pretrial issues will facilitate the uniform and fair resolution of the ignition switch actions, and will promote the just and efficient conduct of those actions.’”

Texas attorney Bob Hilliard is seeking to depose GM’s general counsel Michael Millikinin one of the lawsuits. He calls the request by GM and Delphi a tactic to stall and that it delays “justice for victims.”

“As soon as I ask for GM to make its general counsel, Millikin, immediately available for deposition to get to the bottom of this coverup and to hopefully shed some light on the issue of whether and for how long GM’s legal department delayed immediate and forthright disclosure of the defect so as to buy more time to circle the wagons, GM delays the litigation,” Hilliard said in a statement.

GM and Delphi say in one case filed in April in Nueces County, plaintiffs have served 30 deposition notices including of GM executives and Millikin.

GM recalled 2.59 million older Chevrolet Cobalts, Saturn Ions and other cars earlier this year for defective ignition switches. The company says the switches, which can move from the “run” to “accessory” or “off” position while driving, are linked to 13 deaths.

The company faces numerous lawsuits across the country related to the defects and is being investigated by Congress, the Justice Department, U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, and at least one state attorney general. The company also has an internal investigation underway being led by former U.S. Attorney Anton Valukus that is expected to wrap up within a few weeks.

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