Safety First. . .or Not

Jun 11, 2014
Paul M. da Costa

Since the invention of the automobile, cars have become a part of daily American life.  Vehicular safety is often of the utmost concern when it comes to traveling in or purchasing a car.  Most individuals expect that manufacturers will do their best to ensure their safety, as opposed to keeping secrets about product defects from both the public and higher-ups within the company.  That is, however, exactly what occurred within the legal department at G.M, as reported by the New York Times.

An investigative report released last week hints at a cover-up of a defective ignition switch in G.M.’s small cars that persisted for almost 10 years.  The defect, which could cause the engine to suddenly stop and disable the car’s airbags, was linked to over 10 deaths and 50 accidents.  Reportedly, the lead lawyer investigating the defect, William Kemp, did not report the defect to his superior, Michael P. Millikan, the general counsel of G.M., for nearly 2 years.  Even then, Mr. Kemp informed Mr. Millikan of the defect just a few days after the ignition switch had been ordered recalled.  The investigative report also explains that G.M.’s chief switch engineer covered up a change in the ignition switch in order to hide evidence of any defect.  G.M. employees reported pressure to refrain from taking notes during meetings so that any information that could be used against the company was not memorialized in writing.  Similarly, G.M. attorneys periodically audited employee’s e-mail accounts in order to dispose of any e-mails that expose G.M. to liability.  As a result of the cover-up and subsequent investigative report, G.M. fired 15 employees.

The accidents and injuries that have been caused by G.M.’s failure to correct a fatal defect in its vehicles will most likely spark various lawsuits against the company.  This is illustrative of the claims that many companies face when their defective products cause injury.  The New Jersey Product Liability Act says that a manufacturer may be held liable for injury caused by a defective product if the plaintiff proves that the product was not suitable or safe for its intended purpose.  The plaintiff can prove that there is a design defect or manufacturing defect in the product, or that there was no adequate warning or instruction accompanying the product.  In cases where a death occurs as a result of someone’s negligence or inaction, victim’s family members may also be able to recover damages in a wrongful death claim.

If you or a loved one has suffered injury or death as a result of a defective product, the experienced attorneys at Sarno da Costa D’Aniello Maceri LLC can help you receive adequate compensation for your loss.

The attorneys at Sarno da Costa D’Aniello Maceri LLC can be contacted at 973-274-5200