According to a news report on yahoo.com, the Supreme Court of Georgia ruled that General Motors' CEO is not shielded from testifying in a wrongful death suit filed against General Motors.*
Moreover, the Supreme Court of Georgia ruled that GM's CEO is not exempt from being deposed because of her position. The wrongful death lawsuit originates from a fatal accident in Paulding County that killed a woman. The victim's husband alleges that the single-vehicle motor vehicle was caused by a defect in the victim's Chevrolet Trailblazer steering system.
The victim's husband and his attorneys filed the lawsuit in Cobb County and pursued a deposition from General Motors' CEO. The victim's husband made the request because of the CEO's statements made before Congress and elsewhere concerning the company's investigation of the Chevrolet Trailblazer steering system. Although there was no action taken due to that investigation, a 2021 Reuters news report discovered company documentation of "high levels of warranty claims and a manufacturing flaw" with the SUV's steering system.
In 2020, Cobb State Court Judge Carl Bowers ruled that the GM CEO might be compelled to testify in the wrongful death trial, according to one of the victim's attorneys. The Georgia Court of Appeals then upheld that ruling, and General Motors brought the issue before the Georgia Supreme Court.
General Motors argued that the "apex doctrine," limits the deposition of high-level executives where similar testimony can be received from other witnesses. The argument is trying to shift the burden of proof for whether an executive must be deposed to the plaintiff instead of the company.
Joining General Motors as amici curiae (friends of the court) with an interest in the ruling included the Georgia Chamber of Commerce, Delta Airlines, UPS, Kia, Coca-Cola, the National Association of Manufacturers, and a several legal groups that favor limiting liabilities for defendants.
The Georgia Supreme Court ruled against GM's argument, finding that the apex doctrine would construct a double legal standard for C-suite managers. Justice Charlie Bethel's decision stated, "Adopting the apex doctrine would necessarily restrict the trial court's discretion by placing a thumb on the scale so as to suggest a special rule for high-ranking executives of large companies that exists nowhere in the Civil Practice Act,"
The court sent the issue back down to Judge Bowers, vacating his previous decision, and asked him to revisit the legal issue based on the available evidence.
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