A few days ago Michael Smerconish, a long-time talk-radio fixture who recently began hosting a show on CNN, ended his daily broadcast with a short commentary (see link below) that began as an essay about the GM ignition-switch scandal but ended up making a broader – and more important – point.
I have written several times recently about the ignition-switch situation. The faulty switches, mainly in Chevy Cobalts though other models are also effected, can sometimes turn the entire car off while it is moving at highway speeds, causing drivers to lose control. In the process they can also disable airbags. The problem led to fatal auto accidents involving at least 13 deaths (that is the number GM publicly acknowledges) and the recall of millions of vehicles – some of which have been on the road for more than a decade. The scandal has grown as it becomes clear that GM knew about the problem for years but was unwilling to spend pennies per car to fix it.
Telling his audience about the lawsuit that began the process bringing all of this to light, Smerconish recounts the story of a family searching for answers in the wake of the death of their 29-year-old daughter, of their decision to hire a lawyer and of that lawyer’s move to commission an independent assessment of the car. Everything that has happened in the years since began with this one case.
Praising the family’s “willingness to file a lawsuit,” Smerconish went on to say: “Our civil justice system is often maligned, but it remains a great check on our free-enterprise system. Often, it serves as a more vigilant force than the government itself. Whether it’s (the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) being slow to force the recall of defective cars, the SEC not reigning in the forces of Wall Street that brought about the bank collapses, the FDA delaying taking products off the market like Vioxx… so here’s a thought, the next time a jury duty notice arrives instead of thinking about how that service can be avoided, instead consider the power, consider the importance, of the civil justice system.”
Smerconish’s remarks are an eloquent reminder of a point I have made many times on this blog over the years. As a Portland personal injury attorney everything I do is focused on helping ordinary Oregonians and Washingtonians use our courts to get the answers, and the justice, that government or private enterprise often denies them. It is an honor to be able to help people, and to show them that our system, for all its faults, works.