The first trial involving a lawsuit against General Motors over its faulty ignition switches was scheduled to start recently, but the plaintiff lawyer who filed the case had to withdraw it in embarrassment after his client was exposed as a fraud. The case is the latest example of how some Americans have come to perceive the courts as a sort of lottery vault filled with easy money just waiting for them to claim.
General Motors has already settled at least 1,400 cases with alleged victims of the faulty ignition switch for hundreds of millions of dollars. The company has also paid over a billion in fines and other legal settlements. Apparently, the lure of all this money was just too great for a postman named Robert Scheuer from Tulsa, Oklahoma to pass up, so he sued GM, too.
According to one report, his lawyer, Robert Hilliard, had already settled over a thousand of the ignition cases with the company out of court, and he thought Scheuer’s case was the best one to litigate in court. He believed he had a sympathetic client because his client claimed to have been evicted from his home after a faulty ignition-induced accident caused memory loss that led him to misplace a down payment check for his home. It was regarded as a bellweather lawsuit and received nationwide media coverage…and that’s when the case began to fall apart.
One of the reports on the lawsuit that aired on radio was heard by Robert Kleven, a real estate agent in Tulsa. Kleven immediately recognized Scheuer’s name because the postman had cheated him in the very real estate deal he was using as the basis for his lawsuit.
In an attempt to buy a home from Kleven, Scheuer had altered a check issued by the government to make it appear as though he had hundreds of thousands of dollars in a bank account. Based on that, Kleven allowed the man and his wife to move into a new house in suburban Tulsa before they paid for it. However, Scheuer failed to ever produce the money, so Kleven, had to start an eviction process to get Scheuer out of the home.
After hearing about the lawsuit on the radio, Kleven quickly reported it to the company. GM reportedly sent a team to Tulsa to investigate the story and determined that it was true. Shortly after GM revealed Scheuer’s fraud to the court, the case was dismissed.
So, what’s the takeaway here? Obviously, the moral of this story is to be truthful. Hilliard was conned by his own client.
Unfortunately, fraud is a growing problem in America’s courts. Many people who have never been injured are filing lawsuits in shakedown schemes simply to enrich themselves. They hope to settle and walk away with a huge pile of cash. GM and other large companies are aware of this, and it’s why they are forced to litigate some lawsuits like this one after they’ve already settle hundreds or thousands of others.
The massive fraud uncovered in thousands of asbestosis lawsuits is another example of this. For more on that, click here. This type of fraud will continue until all judges send the message that frivolous lawsuits won’t be tolerated any more and that America’s justice system is not a lawsuit lottery. In the meantime, we hope that our weekly “Let’s Be Fair” radio commentary on these types of lawsuits will enable even more people like Robert Kleven to come forward.
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