GM starts talks to settle ignition-switch lawsuits

DETROIT - The mediator hired by General Motors (GM) to settle claims from a deadly ignition-switch problem has started talks about compensating victims' families.

Attorney Kenneth Feinberg confirms in an interview with The Associated Press that he met Friday with Corpus Christi, Texas, lawyer Robert Hilliard. Hilliard says he represents families of 53 people who died in crashes of defective GM vehicles, and another 273 who were injured.

Talks over potential compensation stem from GM's recall of 2.6 million older small cars because of a defect in the vehicles' ignition switches. The switches can slip out of the "run" position, which can shut down the engine, knock out the power-assisted steering and brakes and disable the air bags. Drivers can lose control of their cars and crash.

The automaker, which has linked 13 deaths to the problem, has acknowledged that its engineers knew about the problem more than a decade ago.

Feinberg -- who administered funds for the Sept. 11 victims of terrorist attacks, among other high-profile work -- says he is evaluating GM's options regarding compensation. He says he listened to Hilliard explain the "quality and quantity" of his cases. But Feinberg would not comment on what else was discussed.

Hilliard said no dollar figures were mentioned. He believes Feinberg wants to reach fair settlements. But Hilliard said he wants his clients to be fully compensated and won't settle at a discount.

GM recently filed suit in a U.S. bankruptcy court asking a judge to protect the company from legal claims for actions that took place before it emerged from bankruptcy in 2009.