Attention owners of General Motors (GM) vehicles: GM defects have fallen through the cracks to the detriment of consumers. A major defect causes GM ignition switches to power off and prevents airbags from deploying during vehicle crashes. Unfortunately, the safety regulating powers that be in the federal government have not put a halt to the involved ignition switches and the legal system has also failed to bring attention to the defect that has caused at least 42 GM vehicle crash related deaths. The legal system has failed in this particular defect due to the extremely high cost of litigating such cases. It is a sad fact that many attorneys simply cannot afford to take on these cases, and others that are similar, for precisely the reason of cost versus recovery in a system where tort reform and lawsuit costs are making negative impacts. When such cases are litigated individually a great impact is not realized in fighting against product defects as proper attention is not brought to consumers as is the case when victims and attorneys come together in class action lawsuits.
Without federal crack downs, public attention, and a record of winning lawsuits, companies such as GM are less likely to settle with victims of product defects. Some of the cases, specific to the GM defect, have settled confidentially, further hindering the ability to alert the public and put pressure on safety agencies to do something about product defects. GM and other companies do not feel as much pressure without public and governmental scrutiny, making them more likely to make minimal offers, if any, to victims and families. Attorneys who litigate such cases also have more difficulty in learning about potential cases when GM and other companies insist on confidential settlements.
GM has taken note that there has been a pattern of difficulties arising from the ignition defect in a certain line of their cars, the Cobalt. This at least led them to hire some experts who found that some of the Cobalts might have a “sensing anomaly” defect preventing airbag deployment. Some have stated that GM’s hired corporate attorneys have recommended further investigation into these defects, and perhaps a recall, but involved law firms and GM refuse to answer questions about such topics. Corporate attorneys often hesitate to come out with such recommendations to large corporations, such as GM, due to a culture of fear that GM and others will refuse to hire them for future cases if product defects are not kept on the down low.
In the meantime, families such as the one of 29 year old Brooke Melton, have experienced grievous loss and pain. Ms. Melton was the victim in a fatal Chevrolet Cobalt crash, filed in 2011 as a lawsuit, when her car’s airbags did not deploy. GM tried to claim the crash was a side impact so the airbags would not have deployed, but when evidence was presented showing the Cobalt’s ignition switch had a big role in the crash the lawsuit went forward and Ms. Melton’s family was given an offer by GM that hinged on their silence. It took several months after that lawsuit for GM to come clean with the Cobalt defect and initiate a recall of certain Cobalts. In other death cases, GM tried to get out of any settlement in multiple ways, including blaming the victims such as 16 year old Amber Marie Rose, who lost her life in a 2005 Cobalt crash. It is sad that giant corporations, such as GM, play with human life and loss, hedging bets that they can make more money selling potentially defective products than it will cost them to defend themselves in individual litigation cases. If you or someone you know has become the victim of such a dangerous or fatal product defect, our experienced professionals at Inserra & Kelley may be able to help in this fight to help the victim, the victim’s families, and the consumer public at large.