Delphi, lawyers suing GM reach deal

Melissa Burden and Michael Wayland
The Detroit News

Delphi Automotive is cooperating with lawyers suing General Motors Co. over a deadly ignition-switch defect linked to at least 32 deaths and 35 injuries in exchange for being dropped as a defendant in several lawsuits.

Georgia attorney Lance Cooper, representing families of those who died and were injured in crashes allegedly linked to the defect, on Thursday said the auto supplier has agreed to produce requested documents and grant access to depose Delphi employees. Delphi produced the switches for the Detroit automaker at a Mexico plant.

The recent deal likely will speed up the deposition process for lawyers and also could save Delphi millions of dollars in defense expenses over several years. Delphi has been named as a co-defendant in some product liability and class-action lawsuits related to the GM ignition switch recall. GM faces dozens of lawsuits and is being investigated by the Justice Department, U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, 48 state attorney generals and Canada over the delay to recall 2.59 million small cars with faulty ignition switches.

Delphi and GM both declined to comment Thursday.

Cooper said it is not known how many lawsuits Delphi will be dropped from. It’s also unclear the number of documents expected to be supplied by Delphi and how many Delphi employees will be interviewed.

“We’re going to have to take some time to review the documents and identify the employees who we believe should be deposed,” he said in a phone interview Thursday, adding he hopes to begin deposing employees in early 2015.

Cooper declined to comment on settlement terms, citing a confidentiality clause.

Delphi already has supplied documents to lawyers suing GM. Emails between Delphi and GM released by Texas attorney Bob Hilliard on Monday showed GM placed an “urgent” request order for a half-million replacement switches in December 2013, six weeks before the automaker began a recall of the older-model cars with the faulty parts.

Cooper earlier this week told The Detroit News that Delphi is supposed to issue more documents by the beginning of next month.

Delphi CEO and President Rodney O’Neal testified before a Senate committee in July. He defended the supplier, saying Delphi built the switch for GM pursuant to its requirements and Delphi wasn’t responsible. GM CEO Mary Barra agreed that it was GM which bought the part that ultimately is responsible.

Delphi has turned over documents to a federal grand jury in New York among other requests from government agencies for information. In securities filings, Delphi has said it believes allegations in product liability cases are without merit.