Judge orders GM to turn over internal documents

Tuesday, September 19th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (AP) _ A state judge has ordered General Motors Inc. to turn over information about legal settlements involving its half-ton pickup trucks to people suing over a fatal crash last year.

Washington County Circuit Judge Kim Smith denied a protective order sought Monday by GM to quash a subpoena requesting internal documents.

The subpoena seeks documents detailing the amount GM has spent to defend lawsuits concerning the C/K half-ton pickup since the truck was released in 1973.

The lawsuit alleges that a 1985 pickup had defect in its fuel system that caused the March 5, 1999, crash that killed Linda Hudelson, 50, of Cedersville, her 19-month-old granddaughter, Ashtyn Holman, and James E. McGarrah, Hudelson's great-nephew.

General Motors attorney Kyle Dreyer of Dallas said the subpeona is part of a settlement strategy by attorneys representing McGarrah and is not relevant to the lawsuit. The survivors of Hudelson and Holman are also suing GM but were not involved in the subpoena.

The judge said the automaker's history of settlements should be handed over to the plaintiffs because it could lead to relevant evidence. But the judge also said the documents may not be admissible in court.

``We still have a big fight as to what's relevant,'' Smith said.

Hudelson was driving the pickup southbound on Arkansas 59 near the Dutch Mills community along Oklahoma border when she came to a sharp right turn and apparently lost control of the truck. The truck left the road, overturned several times, struck a tree and caught fire.

McGarrah attorney Steven Hickman of Tulsa, Okla., said GM knew about the fuel system defect but didn't recall the 1985 C/K pickup because the cost would be prohibitive. More than 10 million were made and 6 million are still being driven, he said.