Lance Cooper

No Accident: Inside GM’s deadly ignition switch scandal – Atlanta Magazine

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In The News - The Cooper Firm

No Accident: Inside GM’s deadly ignition switch scandal

Marietta attorney Lance Cooper was looking for answers behind a single crash. What he found led to a recall of 30 million vehicles.

Over the years, as he’s represented victims and survivors of horrific car accidents, Cooper has come to believe that federal regulations can do only so much. Corrupt corporate execs and engineers, he’s concluded, will always find ways to game the system. “You have to have some regulation,” says Cooper, who describes himself as an economic conservative. “But more often than not, regulations don’t work to protect people. That’s why you need the jury trial.” Not surprisingly for a liability attorney, Cooper sees the threat of seven- and eight-figure awards as the biggest incentive for car companies to do the right thing. Fear of litigation trumps fear of the federal government.

Read the full story here. 

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Lance Cooper speaks at North Carolina Advocates for Justice Annual Convention as Keynote Speaker

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Lance Cooper - Personal Injury Attorney

Lance Cooper speaks at North Carolina Advocates for Justice Annual Convention as Keynote Speaker

Thank you to the North Carolina Advocates for Justice for inviting Lance Cooper to speak at its Annual Convention as the keynote speaker.

Lance spoke on being a trial lawyer in a lunch named “Being a Trial Lawyer: It’s not just a job, it’s an adventure.” During his speech Lance shared on his personal experience in being a trial lawyer for the past twenty years, as well as some of his latest experiences related to the GM ignition switch.

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Press Release: Melton Case Settles After Exposing GM Cover-up

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PRESS RELEASE - The Cooper Firm Personal Injury Lawyer

News Release

 Melton Case Settles After Exposing GM Cover-up

WHAT: News conference call to address the Melton v. GM case
WHO: Lance Cooper, The Cooper FirmBeasley Allen Founding Shareholder Jere L. Beasley
WHEN: Monday, March 16, 2015 10:00 a.m. CST / 11:00 a.m. EST
WHERE: Ready Access Number: 866-365-44067-Diget Access Code: 4275588
WHY: The Cooper Firm and Beasley Allen Law Firm will be addressing a development in the Melton v. General Motors lawsuit.

March 13, 2015

Lead GM defective ignition switch case resolved with confidential settlement after accomplishing goals of bringing cover-up to light and holding GM accountable for consumer safety

MARIETTA, GEORGIA. (March 13, 2015)  – Lawyers representing Ken and Beth Melton, whose claims against General Motors for the death of their daughter exposed a 10-year cover-up of the ignition switch defect, announced that a second lawsuit has been resolved with a confidential settlement.

Brooke Melton, 29, died in a March 2010 crash when the ignition switch in her 2005 Cobalt slipped into the accessory position as she was driving, causing her car to skid into another vehicle. The initial resolution of her case touched off a national controversy over GM’s deception, resulting in $35 million in civil fines, millions of vehicles recalled, Congressional hearings over GM’s failures and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) lackluster response, and a multi-district litigation (MDL). Among the revelations: GM lied under oath in the original Melton case, prompting her parents to pursue GM again for fraud.

Ken and Beth Melton are hoping that Brooke’s death serves as a catalyst to motivate General Motors and other major automakers to address deadly defects promptly, instead of ignoring them, and prevents other needless tragedies. Lance Cooper and his firm in Marietta, Ga., and the Beasley Allen firm in Montgomery, Ala., represented the Meltons.

“One of the most important issues for the Meltons was accountability. This is a company that concealed this defect for years. They wanted to hold GM accountable, and that is what refiling the lawsuit did,” Cooper said. “They are grieving parents who simply wanted the truth and for no one else to suffer a similar loss.”

The 2010 crash was initially attributed to Brooke losing control of her car on a rainy night. But an investigation revealed the vehicle was equipped with a faulty ignition switch that allowed the key to turn out of the “run” to the “accessory” or “off” position, cutting power steering, anti-lock braking, lights, and disabling the air bags. After 18 months of discovery and a court order, GM finally produced documents showing that GM engineers first noted the ignition switch problem during the Cobalt’s production stage. GM took the defective vehicles to market anyway, and began to rack up complaints almost immediately. GM attempted to “fix” the problem with an October 2005 Technical Service Bulletin, but failed. For the next nine years, dozens of individuals died and hundreds of others were injured by the defective switches.

In September 2013, the Meltons agreed to settle their case with GM for $5 million. At the time, GM admitted knowledge of the defect, but claimed ignorance on the matter of who changed the defective ignition switch design or authorized that change. Five months later, GM announced a recall for a small subset of the vehicles affected by the defect, but told NHTSA nothing about its long history. On Feb. 19, 2014, the Meltons alerted NHTSA to GM’s knowledge of the faulty switch, and requested that the agency open an investigation called a Timeliness Query to determine if GM met its legal obligation to recall a vehicle within five business days of discovering a defect and if the company had failed to recall all of the affected vehicles.

“The fact that Mr. and Mrs. Melton would be willing to take on a corporate giant and end up being directly responsible for alerting both the government and the public to a massive cover-up by General Motors is one of the most courageous things that I’ve experienced in my career as a lawyer,” Jere Beasley, Principal & Founder of Beasley, Allen, Crow, Methvin, Portis & Miles, P.C., said. “The Meltons truly are heroes for American consumers. I am extremely proud of them and am honored to have been asked to help represent them in a most worthy cause.”

By April 2014, the Meltons learned that GM knew much more about the defect than it attested to in 2013, and asked the company to rescind the original settlement. The couple offered to return the money, and filed a second lawsuit in State Court of Cobb, County, Ga., charging GM with putting a known defective vehicle on the highway and with fraud in the original lawsuit and settlement.

GM established a victim compensation fund to evaluate claims to determine eligibility and compensation amounts for drivers, passengers and pedestrians killed or injured by one of the defective GM vehicles. As of Feb. 1, GM had received a total of 4,180 claims for compensation, according to Kenneth Feinberg, the fund administrator. To date, Mr. Feinberg has determined that 64 deaths and 108 other injury claims are eligible for compensation.  But for the Meltons’ efforts, most of these injured drivers and passengers would not have received any compensation, much less fair and appropriate compensation from GM.  Mr. Feinberg took an active role in working with the Meltons’ attorneys to settle the claims arising out of the second lawsuit.

The Melton lawsuit also caused the GM ignition switch litigation to move forward in the MDL. In September 2014, U.S. District Judge Jesse M. Furman, who is overseeing the MDL, ruled against GM’s efforts to halt discovery efforts, noting coordinated discovery in the MDL and the Melton case should proceed immediately. The first MDL case is scheduled for trial in January 2016 due in large part to the Meltons’ decision to proceed with their second lawsuit.

About The Cooper Firm

Lance Cooper founded The Cooper Firm in 2006. With experience in substantial personal injury and wrongful death cases, he has represented plaintiffs in numerous civil jury trials and has successfully prosecuted hundreds of cases and gained multi-million dollar verdicts and settlements on behalf of his clients. For more information, visit www.thecooperfirm.com.

 About Beasley Allen Law Firm

Headquartered in Montgomery, Ala., Beasley Allen is comprised of more than 70 attorneys and 200 support staff. Beasley Allen is a national leader in civil litigation, with verdicts and settlements in excess of $22 billion. For more information about our firm, please visit our website at www.beasleyallen.com.

 

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Media Contacts: 

The Cooper Firm:

Victoria Schneider
(770) 427-5588
(770) 675-6443 direct
victoria@thecooperfirm.com

Beasley Allen:

Helen Taylor
(334) 495-1169
(334) 221-2311 cell
(800) 898-2034 x169
helen.taylor@beasleyallen.com

Switched Off – Trial Magazine

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Switched Off – Trial Magazine

By Lance Cooper and Pat Dawson

The Story of how GM’s ignition switch defects came to light can be instructive for other products liability litigation against automakers.

Kenneth and Beth Melton suffered a painful loss when their daughter, Brooke, died in a car wreck in 2010. But when they first walked into our firm, their case did not look like one that would eventually cost GM an estimated $2 billion in recall charges, a $35 million fine, and 15 or more GM employees their jobs. Or one that would spawn scores of lawsuits and bring 9/11 compensation negotiator Kenneth Feinberg into the fray.

Read the full article here. 

GM’s hit and run: How a lawyer, mechanic, and engineer blew open the worst auto scandal in history – Pando

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GM Recall Lawyer - The Cooper Firm

GM’s hit and run: How a lawyer, mechanic, and engineer blew open the worst auto scandal in history – Pando

By: Adam Penenberg

“Now that attorney Lance Cooper knew what to look for, he filed a revised complaint almost three years to the day after Brooke Melton died. He accused GM of negligence in designing, testing, and manufacturing, as well as failing to warn consumers. Months earlier, Cooper had begun papering the auto company’s attorneys with requests for information on ignition switches, including any and all lawsuits and documents relating to the modified key in the service advisory. GM responded in January 2013 with a heap of material but objected to several discovery requests, such as drawings of the original switch and any revisions, until a judge ordered the carmaker to hand over “all responsive documents and materials.”

Cooper targeted 15 engineers to question, and their answers helped him fill in key pieces of the puzzle. In one deposition, GM’s head switch engineer on the Cobalt, Raymond DeGiorgio, admitted that he recognized differences between the original and replacement switches but couldn’t explain why it had been changed without GM or Delphi, the parts maker, modifying the identification number. In further testimony, Cooper learned of a GM engineer who had experienced the ignition shutdown problem during a test drive in 2004. Shortly after, in 2005, GM’s own engineers concluded there was a problem with the switch.”

Read the full story here. 

Lance Cooper Finalist for Trial Lawyer of the Year in 2014

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Lance Cooper Finalist for Trial Lawyer of the Year in 2014

Every year, the Public Justice Foundation presents the Trial Lawyer of the Year Award to the trial attorney or legal team who has made the greatest contribution to the public interest in the past year.

Lance Cooper was nominated for Melton v. General Motors.

Lance Cooper of The Cooper Firm in Marietta, GA. was the sole plaintiff’s attorney in the case. After noticing serious problems with her 2005 Chevrolet Cobalt, including the engine shutting off while she drove, Brooke Melton took her vehicle to her local dealership. A day after she picked it up from the dealership, her car lost power suddenly, veered into oncoming traffic, was struck by another vehicle, and rolled into a creek. Melton was killed in the accident. At the request of Melton’s parents, Lance cooper launched an investigation into her death. When Cooper initially filed Melton v. General Motors against GM and the dealership that services Brooke’s vehicle, he believed the accident was caused by a defect related to a power-steering recall issued by GM one week before the accident. But Cooper retained experts who determined that the real culprit in the fatal accident was a defective ignition switch that caused the car to turn off suddenly while Melton was driving. Cooper then showed that GM has known about the deadly ignition defect before the accident, exposing a corporate cover-up and federal regulatory lapse that led to Gm recalling over 2.5 million car, a Congressional investigation, and large (but confidential) settlement to compensate the Melton family on September 21, 2013.

Lance Cooper is Awarded the Steven Sharp Public Service Award along with Clients

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Lance Cooper is Awarded the Steven Sharp Public Service Award along with Clients Ken and Beth Melton

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“The Sharp Public Service Award is presented annually to attorneys and clients whose cases tell the story of American civil justice and help educate state and national policy makers and the public about the importance of consumers’ rights. This award is named for Steven J. Sharp of Richland, Oregon who lost both arms at the age of 17 because of a defective tractor hay baler. The tractor manufacturer knew one person had been mangled and another decapitated by this defectively designed product. Company executives did nothing, however, even though a small, 70-cent part would have fixed the problem.  At the time of Steven’s case, legislation was pending that would have barred him from taking his case against the manufacturer to court. He spoke out to show lawmakers how legislation to limit access to the courts would deprive people like him of justice.  Steven’s case had a positive effect on Capitol Hill and ultimately led to the defeat of this unfair legislation.” – American Association for Justice

Lance Cooper was recently awarded the Steven Sharp Public Service Award on behalf of his work on the Melton vs. Gm case. His clients, Ken and Beth Melton, also received the award. The award was given by the America Association for Justice this July.

 

Press Release – Beasley will Submit GM Ignition Switch Injury, Death Claims to Compensation Fund

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PRESS RELEASE - The Cooper Firm Personal Injury Lawyer

News Release

Beasley will Submit gm ignition switch injury, death claims to compensation fund

July 10, 2014

After face-to-face meeting with GM Victims Compensation Fund administrator Kenneth Feinberg, Beasley Allen founder Jere Beasley says he is willing to give the plan a chance to work

MONTGOMERY, ALA. (July 10, 2014) – After a personal meeting with GM Victims Compensation Fund administrator Kenneth Feinberg, Beasley Allen Founding Shareholder Jere L. Beasley says he is willing to give the plan a chance. Beasley, along with Beasley Allen shareholder Cole Portis, who heads of the firm’s Products Liability Section, and Lance Cooper, founder of The Cooper Firm based in Marietta, Ga., met with Feinberg on July 9 in Atlanta.

“I have been somewhat critical of the manner in which General Motors set up the compensation plan to be administered by Ken Feinberg. For example, I believed that General Motors had made the criteria for eligibility much too restrictive and limited.  While I believe the criticism was justified, I agreed to meet with Mr. Feinberg to discuss how the plan would be implemented,” Beasley says. “Lance Cooper, Cole Portis and I met with Mr. Feinberg in Atlanta on Wednesday.  We had a candid discussion covering a broad range of topics relating to the General Motors litigation, including how the plan would work for our clients. We all agreed that the details of our discussion would be confidential. I must say that I was impressed with Mr. Feinberg’s candor and his willingness to listen to our views. While we didn’t agree on everything, I do believe the meeting was productive.

“At the conclusion of the lengthy meeting, we have decided to submit claims, including death claims and those involving personal injury, to the plan.  I believe our clients will receive fair treatment from the Claims Administrator.  Of course there will be clients of ours who will prefer to keep their claims in the courts. We will continue to file lawsuits, but will give the plan a chance to work. If it doesn’t work for our clients we will have the option of going back to the court system.”

GM initially recalled about 780,000 2005-07 Chevrolet Cobalt and Pontiac G5 vehicles on Feb. 13. Twelve days later, it expanded the recall to include an additional 590,000 model-year 2003-07 Saturn Ion, Chevy HHR, Pontiac Solstice, and Saturn Sky vehicles. That initial recall now encompasses 2.6 million vehicles, and GM admits to 13 deaths related to the defect. In June, GM recalled an additional 3.4 million midsize and large cars for the same ignition switch defect. In July, GM recalled 17 older model (1997-2005) vehicles. GM attributes seven crashes, three deaths and eight injuries to this latest group of recalled vehicles, which it says allows “inadvertent ignition key rotation.” So far, GM has recalled 17.1 million cars this year because of the ignition switch defect.

About The Cooper Firm

Lance Cooper founded The Cooper Firm in 2006. With experience in substantial personal injury and wrongful death cases, he has represented plaintiffs in numerous civil jury trials and has successfully prosecuted hundreds of cases and gained multi-million dollar verdicts and settlements on behalf of his clients. For more information, visit www.thecooperfirm.com.

About Beasley Allen Law Firm

Headquartered in Montgomery, Alabama, Beasley Allen is comprised of more than 75 attorneys and over 200 support staff. Beasley Allen is a national leader in civil litigation, with verdicts and settlements in excess of $22 billion. For more information about our firm, please visit our website at www.beasleyallen.com.

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Media Contacts:

The Cooper Firm:
Victoria Schneider
(770) 427-5588
(770) 675-6443 direct
victoria@thecooperfirm.com
 
Beasley Allen:
Wendi Lewis
(334) 495-1308
(334) 221-3595 cell
(800) 898-2034 x169
wendi.lewis@beasleyallen.com
 

 

 

Press Release – GM Compensation Plan May Work for Some Families, But Leaves Out Many Others

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PRESS RELEASE - The Cooper Firm Personal Injury Lawyer

News Release

GM Compensation Plan May Work for Some Families, But Leaves Out Many Others

June 30, 2014

ATLANTA, GEORGIA (June 30, 2014) – After reviewing GM’s compensation plan, Lance Cooper of The Cooper Firm says that it may benefit certain victims who were involved in accidents caused by defective key systems in GM vehicles.  “Unfortunately, the Final Protocol, however, excludes over a million of the vehicles GM recalled to replace defective ignition switches,” Cooper said.

If it is GM’s intent to “make it right” for the victims of the key system defect, the final protocol should include all of the recalled vehicles listed in the compensation plan.  There should be no distinction between production part vehicles and service part recalled vehicles.  Simply put, if an engine stalls in a recalled vehicle as a result of the key inadvertently moving from the run to accessory position, the model year should not matter.  “Mr. Feinberg has had to rely on GM’s technical expertise in defining the scope of the vehicles which would be included in the plan,” Cooper added.  “Unfortunately, GM has tied Mr. Feinberg’s hands by limiting the scope.  These families will now be forced to file lawsuits and ask jurors ‘make it right’ since GM has chosen not to allow Mr. Feinberg to make it right.”

The decision by GM to exclude these recalled vehicles from the compensation plan makes little sense since GM’s own internal testing shows that the ignition switches in 40% of the 2008-2009 recalled vehicles did not meet GM’s minimum torque specifications.  This explains why The Cooper Firm is investigating numerous engine stalling claims involving post-2007 model year recalled vehicles.

Another concern is the evidence that the claimants’ are required to present in order to prove that the defect caused their harm.  In many cases, much of the evidence that would normally be available was destroyed as a result of GM’s cover-up of the defect.  There is some concern that the GM plan does not provide victims with the benefit of the doubt if the evidence is no longer available.  Furthermore, GM should not benefit from its fraudulent conduct by using the lack of available evidence as a barrier to compensation.

Finally, it is encouraging to note that the Final Protocol gives families the opportunity to opt in or opt out of the plan.  No doubt, some families will decide that the plan makes the best sense for them, while others will decide to pursue their lawsuit against GM.  Of course, for those who decide to pursue their lawsuit, GM should waive any bankruptcy or statute of limitation defenses so that these families are not forced into a plan that is not acceptable to them.  This would be consistent with Mr. Feinberg’s comments that families should be given a choice.

About The Cooper Firm

Lance Cooper founded The Cooper Firm in 2006. With experience in substantial personal injury and wrongful death cases, he has represented plaintiffs in numerous civil jury trials and has successfully prosecuted hundreds of cases and gained multi-million dollar verdicts and settlements on behalf of his clients. For more information, visit www.thecooperfirm.com.

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Media Contact:

Victoria Schneider
770-427-5588
Victoria@thecooperfirm.com
 

Press Release: GM Stalling Tactic is a Move to Force Victims to Give up Hope

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PRESS RELEASE - The Cooper Firm Personal Injury Lawyer

News Release

GM stalling tactic is a move to force victims to give up hope

June 23, 2014

The General Motors (GM) attempt to move the Melton case to federal court has one purpose, to minimize liability at the victim’s expense

MONTGOMERY, ALA. (June 23, 2014) – On June 11 General Motors (GM) filed a notice of removal in an attempt to move the Melton lawsuit behind the protection of its “old GM” bankruptcy instead of living up to the promise by its CEO to do the right thing by victims of its ignition switch defect, which it now admits is linked to more than 13 deaths. Ken and Beth Melton, parents of 29-year-old Brooke Melton, who was killed in a 2010 crash linked to the ignition switch defect, refiled their wrongful death lawsuit on behalf of their daughter on May 12. Rather than leaving the civil liability lawsuit in the State Court in Cobb County, Ga., where it was filed, GM is now attempting to remove the Melton case and all other against the company transferred to a federal court in New York in the Multi-District Litigation (MDL).

Lance Cooper, founder of The Cooper Firm, which originally filed the Melton case, says, “GM’s actions in Melton speak louder than Ms. Barra’s words. GM understands the Meltons have a right to have their case heard in Cobb County State Court since that is where their case against GM and Thornton Chevrolet was previously pending.  Yet, GM is doing whatever it takes to prevent the Meltons from having their day in Court, even going so far as to accuse the Meltons of fraud in filing the lawsuit. Contrary to Ms. Barra’s repeated promises, GM continues to do the wrong thing.”

“This is an attempt  to stall for as long as possible in the Melton case and other post-bankruptcy cases, to avoid putting GM officers, lawyers, engineers and other employees under oath for depositions. I believe not having to face discovery in the Melton case is GM’s real goal,” said Beasley Allen Founding Shareholder Jere Beasley. “They have to know that the bankruptcy order clearly won’t apply to post-2009 deaths and injuries. In fact, GM has stated that position both publicly and privately. So GM’s real goal in the Melton removal is to stall, stall and stall, hoping the public will forget how bad the company has been and its victims will give up. We will continue to fight hard for our clients and other victims and will do everything we can to hold GM’s corporate feet to the fire. We look forward to the discovery phase of the Melton case and getting a number of GM folks under oath in Cobb County, Ga.”

When GM CEO Mary Barra addressed her employees and the public June 5, she expressed sympathy for victims and their families, saying, “I realize there are no words of mine that can ease their grief and pain. But as I lead GM through this crisis, I want everyone to know that I am guided by two clear principles: First that we do the right thing for those who were harmed; and, second, that we accept responsibility for our mistakes and commit to doing everything within our power to prevent this problem from ever happening again.” Later in her speech, she said again, “… we are going to do the right thing for the affected parties.”

In February 2014, only after evidence emerged in the Meltons’ original wrongful death lawsuit that showed GM had longstanding knowledge of the ignition switch defect, did the company start recalling its affected vehicles. That recall now encompasses 2.6 million vehicles, and GM admits to at least 13 deaths related to the defect. June 16, GM announced it is recalling an additional 3.4 million midsize and large cars for the same ignition switch defect.

Beasley Allen and The Cooper Firm have filed lawsuits related to the ignition switch defect. Lance Cooper, founder of The Cooper Firm, is the lawyer who first discovered GM’s ignition switch defect and uncovered the automaker’s cover-up, which finally led to massive recalls.

About The Cooper Firm

Lance Cooper founded The Cooper Firm in 2006. With experience in substantial personal injury and wrongful death cases, he has represented plaintiffs in numerous civil jury trials and has successfully prosecuted hundreds of cases and gained multi-million dollar verdicts and settlements on behalf of his clients. For more information, visit www.thecooperfirm.com.

About Beasley Allen Law Firm

Headquartered in Montgomery, Alabama, Beasley Allen is comprised of more than 70 attorneys and 200 support staff. Beasley Allen is a national leader in civil litigation, with verdicts and settlements in excess of $22 billion. For more information about our firm, please visit our website at www.beasleyallen.com.

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Media Contacts:

 
Beasley Allen:
Helen Taylor
(334) 495-1169
(334) 201-2311 cell
(800) 898-2034 x169
helen.taylor@beasleyallen.com
 
The Cooper Firm:
Victoria Schneider
(770) 427-5588
(770) 675-6443 direct
victoria@thecooperfirm.com

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