GM Recall Shines Light on Lawyer

Lance Cooper’s Case settled confidentially, but his findings about a GM ignition part led to massive recall

Katheryn Hayes Tucker, Daily Report

April 09, 2014    

Despite a run for the state Legislature–on the Republican ticket–and a term as the head of the Georgia Trial Lawyers Association, Cooper doesn’t come across as seeking the spotlight that tracked him last week.

“He’s one of the few trial lawyers who doesn’t like to bring a lot of attention to himself. He’s a very humble guy,” said Sean Kane, an auto-safety analyst with Safety Research & Strategies Inc. of Rehoboth, Mass., who has consulted with Cooper on cases over the past 18 years, including the Melton case. “He doesn’t come across like the image of lawyers. He’s a very down-to-earth guy.”

Cooper is a veteran products liability plaintiffs’ attorney with high dollar wins on his résumé. He’s taken on big carmakers since the 1990s, with some success. He ran one unsuccessful campaign as a Republican candidate for the Georgia State Senate 10 years ago. He is married to Sonja Cooper, an inactive member of the state bar who left her job as a prosecutor with the Cobb County District Attorney’s office when their first child was born. They now have five.

“He’s a free-market Republican kind of guy,” said Kane. “I’m a Northeastern, liberal, latte-sipping Volvo driver. This is a nonpartisan issue. This is about how our systems work together in concert. Government doesn’t figure things out a lot of times. This is why we have a civil justice system.”

A quote from Kane about Cooper juiced headlines last month, with help from the Internet. “He single-handedly set the stage for this recall,” Kane told Bloomberg News about Cooper. “But for the things he has done, this thing doesn’t happen.”

It was USA Today that first linked the ignition switch problem to Cooper’s discovery, according to Victoria Schneider, who became Cooper’s first marketing director in December 2012. In November 2013, she launched a new website with more information about the firm and its staff: the one solo lawyer, two paralegals, an office administrator, an assistant and the marketing director. One of the paralegals, Doreen Lundrigan, has assisted Cooper on the Melton case.

Schneider said about 50 media outlets have contacted Cooper since the GM recall news broke in February–plus a host of other lawyers seeking information about Cooper’s lawsuit against GM. She said she had to nudge the boss a bit to help him become more proactive in talking to media. The website now includes links to recent news stories mentioning the firm–approximately 140, most of them about the GM ignition case.

During the three months that followed the confidential settlement between the Meltons and GM, company executives made plans for the recall. But first, they elevated a long-time employee, Mary Barra, who told Congress she knew nothing about it until after she took over as CEO in January.

Ironically, the CEO told Congress that Brooke Melton, the 29-year-old pediatric nurse whose death brought Cooper into the case, is not among the 13 deaths that GM has publicly connected to the ignition defect because the company is counting only front end crashes as related to the defect.

Cooper said he fears there are “more than we know” who’ve been hurt or killed.

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1 Comment

  • Joe says:

    I read your blog post entitled “GM Recall Shines Light on Lawyer”. Lance Cooper’s Case settled confidentially, but his findings about a GM ignition part led to massive recall according to your blog post.

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