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Atlanta Defective Vehicle Attorneys Review GM Handling of Faulty Ignition Problem

April 03, 2014

The Ford Pinto® recall debacle of the 1970s became a classic example of the danger to consumers when large corporations elect to treat personal injury or wrongful death judgments and settlements as a “cost of doing business.” The massive punitive damage award was designed to send a message that public safety should not be subject to the same type of cost-benefit analysis that might be used to decide if the cost of drink holders is justified by additional profits. New revelations regarding the recent General Motors® (GM) recall related faulty ignition switches suggest that perhaps we have not made nearly enough progress since the Ford Pinto litigation became a textbook case study for corporate ethics.

During the design and production process for the Pinto, crash tests revealed that the gas tank always ruptured in rear impact collisions at speeds over 25 miles per hour according to the library website. While correcting the problem would have saved hundreds of lives and prevented injury to others, the company conducted a cost-benefit analysis and determined that it would be less costly to settle claims with people who were injured or killed than to correct the unsafe design of the vehicle. Ford had access to a design that it estimated could have prevented 180 deaths at a cost of $11 per car, but the company did not make the change. The company calculated the cost of implementing the modification at $137 million while the cost of paying additional damages for fatalities, injuries and property damage that would occur without the change was only $49.5 million. The jury would ultimately approve a punitive damage verdict of $125 million against Ford though the verdict was reduced on appeal. People burned to death over this cost savings, a decision that was consciously made.

New facts have been disclosed that reveal that the delayed GM recall related to fault ignition switches has some disturbing similarities to the Pinto debacle. Recently unveiled documents indicate that GM was aware of the fault ignition switch problem before it began selling the vehicles according to a Wall Street Journal (WSJ) report. Although the manufacturer knew that the ignition switch defect could disable the power steering, power brakes, engine and airbags, the company assumed that when this occurred drivers could safely coast their vehicle off the roadway according to the report. The WSJ report also indicates that a GM engineer disclosed under oath that the company, “made a business decision not to fix the problem.” The disclosure was part of a 2013 lawsuit brought by the family of a Georgia woman who died in a collision when the engine of the Cobalt® she was driving shutdown at highway speeds.

This “business decision” has already been linked to 31 crashes and 12 deaths along with an undetermined number of injuries. It is fair to note that these vehicles were designed and sold prior to GM going through bankruptcy so the company is essentially a different company now. However, this provides little comfort to crash victims and their families who might have avoided injury or the loss of a loved one if this defect had been fixed prior to selling the vehicles.

Atlanta Product Defect Lawyers—Representing Victims of Defective Products for Over 39 Years

If you or a loved one is injured or a loved one dies in a collision because of a vehicle defect, our team at Montlick & Associates of Atlanta auto accident lawyers at Montlick and Associates has been representing those who suffer serious injuries throughout all of Georgia and the Southeast for over thirty years, including but not limited to all smaller cities and rural areas in the state. No matter where you are located our attorneys are just a phone call away, and we will even come to you. Call us 24 hours a day/7 days a week for your Free Consultation at 1-800-LAW-NEED (1-800-529-6333). You can also visit us online at and use our Free Case Evaluation Form or 24-hour Live Online Chat.

Category: Auto Accidents

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