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Detroit – An appeals court on Monday said the CEOs of General Motors and Fiat Chrysler don’t have to meet to settle a lawsuit between the two automakers.

The court overturned an extraordinary decision by a federal judge in Detroit who had ordered GM’s Mary Barra and FCA’s Mike Manley to get together and settle a dispute over FCA’s alleged role in corruption by union leaders.

The appeals court said U.S. District Judge Paul Borman abused his discretion by singling out Barra and Manley and setting other conditions.

“We do not mean to say, however, that the district judge may not order a pretrial settlement conference and/or mediation in the normal course,” the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals wrote in its order.

GM is suing crosstown rival FCA, alleging that it got an advantage by paying off union leaders to reduce labor costs during contract talks. FCA’s former labor chief, Al Iacobelli, is in prison, although the company denies that it directed any prohibited payments.

“As we have said from the date this lawsuit was filed, it is meritless and FCA will continue to defend itself vigorously and pursue all available remedies in response to GM's groundless lawsuit," FCA said in a statement on Monday.

Borman called the lawsuit a “nuclear option” that would be a “waste of time and resources” during a difficult time as the nation battles the COVID-19 pandemic and racial injustice. 

The appeals court rejected GM’s request to assign the case to another judge.

"We are grateful that the Sixth Circuit quickly reviewed and granted our mandamus petition," GM said in a statement on Monday. "This is an important case because former FCA executives have already admitted they conspired to use bribes to gain labor benefits, concessions and advantages. As the facts will show, their corruption caused direct harm to GM and we have a responsibility to our stakeholders seek justice and hold FCA accountable."

Detroit News staff writer Kalea Hall contributed 

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