Some things never change. Even with increased U.S. automobile regulations and a “more litigious culture,” U.S. consumers continue to drive in death traps. In the 1970s, it was revealed that Ford knew that its Pinto exploded upon rear-ending, but continued to produce them, and avoid implementing the $11 safety solution. Similarly, this year, it was revealed that General Motors had knowledge of the deadly potential of its vehicles, but continued to produce them for over the past decade.
This year, GM has recalled 8.4 million vehicles, mostly due to a faulty ignition switch in the following vehicles: 1997-2005 Chevrolet Malibu, 1998-2002 Oldsmobile Intrique, 1999-2005 Pontiac Grand Am and 2003-14 Cadillac CTS.
Knowledge of the defective ignition switch goes back to 2001. The first reported death caused by a defective ignition switch was in 2005. At least 13 deaths have been reported, to-date, with the potential for hundreds of more, where causation was possibly unknown.
Following the Ford crisis of the 1970s and the exploding Firestone SUV tire in 2000, Congress passed a law in 2000 requiring automakers to report to National Highway Traffic & Safety Administration (“NHTSA”) any claims they received blaming defects for injuries or deaths, so the government would not have to rely only on consumer reports. This law was called Transportation Recall Enhancement, Accountability and Documentation (“TREAD”) and is part of the National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act of 1966, codified at 49 U.S.C. §§ 30101-30170. NHTSA also has the ability to dig deeper into any of those claims by then doing a death inquiry — asking the automaker for documentation of each car accident and an assessment of the circumstances leading to each crash.
However, in this case, GM withheld this information from regulators at the NHTSA and in product liability litigation discovery responses.
A law is only as strong and effective as its application and enforcement.
With savvy corporate legal defense and hiding of information from regulators, and corporations’ sole objective being to increase profits, when can consumers fully trust a brand for its safety? The issue really underscores the importance of the saying, buyer beware.
If you have been injured by a recalled vehicle, you may have a product liability claim. Some states have a two-year statute of limitations from the date of injury to bring a lawsuit, others have up to three years. Feel free to contact product liability lawyer, Alexandra Filutowski, for a consultation.
Copyright 2014 The Filutowski Law Firm, PLLC. Disclaimer: This page is intended for general information purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice or legal opinions on any specific facts or circumstances. An attorney-client relationship is not created or continued.