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How a High-Flying Lawyer Botched His Big Case Against GM

  • Bob Hilliard thought he had found the perfect crash plaintiff
  • It all fell apart when an outraged Realtor came out of nowhere
General Motors Co. faces some big trials this year over a deadly defect that cut power to the steering and brakes. The first high-profile case against GM just self-destructed.

General Motors Co. faces some big trials this year over a deadly defect that cut power to the steering and brakes. The first high-profile case against GM just self-destructed.

Photographer: Bill Pugliano/Getty Images
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When Robert Kleven switched on the news for his drive to work two weeks ago, he had no idea he was about to sink a high-profile lawsuit against General Motors Co. and embarrass one of the best-known plaintiffs’ lawyers in the U.S.

The news anchor described a long-awaited trial starting in federal court in Manhattan that day, the first over a deadly defect in millions of GM ignition switches. The plaintiff was a 49-year-old postman named Robert Scheuer. Kleven, a real estate agent in Tulsa, Oklahoma, knew that name. Two years earlier, he said in an interview, Scheuer had pulled a fast one on him.