On Friday General Motors announced yet another expansion of the widening recall of its small cars. According to the New York Times, the company “is expanding its ignition-switch recall to include an additional 971,000 small cars worldwide, including 824,000 in the United States, that may have been previously repaired with defective switches.”
As I noted in a post earlier this month, well before today’s announcement GM had already recalled more than a million cars built since the 2003 model year because of a defect that may lead the ignition switch to cut off. That, in turn, could mean that air bags fail to deploy in the event of a crash. As the latest developments indicate it is now clear that many cars had the faulty switches added to them when they went in for repairs.
More disturbing, however, are the continuing revelations about the way in which GM has handled this scandal. In a move that may yet lead to wrongful death lawsuits, company documents have shown that GM misled grieving families for years, telling those who had lost loved-one in crashes linked to the flaw “that it did not have enough evidence of any defect in their cars, interviews letters and legal documents show.” This happened even as the company was internally debating the best way to fix the problem, the newspaper reports.
Perhaps the single most shocking revelation from the Times is that at one point GM sought to cover its tracks by threatening “to come after the family of an accident victim for reimbursement of legal fees if the family did not withdraw its lawsuit. In another instance, it dismissed a family with a terse, formulaic letter, saying there was no basis for claims,” according to the Times.
As a Portland attorney dedicated to helping defective product victims and their families this goes to the heart of issues I have written about in this space for many years: our court system is one of the few places where ordinary Americans can hold rich and powerful companies to account when they act irresponsibly. GM has deeper pockets than any individual, but it has to face people it has wronged on an equal footing when both stand before the law. Helping people stand up to irresponsible corporations is not just a part of my legal practice, it is something I deeply believe in, because it is the basis of our entire judicial system.
New York Times: GM Expands Recall to Include Later Models
New York Times: General Motors Misled Grieving Families on a Lethal Flaw