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The GM Recall: Who Knew What, and When?

Posted By Regan Zambri & Long || 18-Jul-2014

Defective product attorneys in D.C. and beyond want answers to who knew what, and when. Warnings went out for ten years regarding the faulty GM switch that led to the massive recent recall. It began in 2004, when a Chevy Cobalt came to a sudden halt on a test track after a slight nudge from the driver’s knee against the ignition. Engineers noted the problem but dismissed it.

Soon, the Cobalt and another vehicle, the Saturn Vue, went to market; drivers promptly began to experience the same mechanical phenomenon that the testers had witnessed. As reports of crashes continued to come in, lawyers, investigators and engineers, unbelievably, continued to attribute the problem to “customer satisfaction.”

It seems that only when an outside party became involved did GM begin to understand the magnitude of the defect. They hired ex-prosecutor Anton Valukas to compile a report on the malfunctioning switch. The report concluded that the miscategorization of the problem resulted in insufficient urgency, an untimely response, and – ultimately – the deaths of 13 or more people.

According to Valukas, GM executives weren’t aware of the switch problem until December 2013. However, employees such as switch engineer Ray DeGiorgio certainly knew about it. DeGiorgio’s evasive actions (which we’ll cover in our next post) seem to have kept many of his colleagues in the dark and resulted in a years-long delay in addressing the defect.

He and the 14 other individuals dismissed from GM may have lost their jobs, but will anyone face criminal liability? The answer depends on whether their actions are attributable to simple incompetence – or criminal negligence.

According to the Cornell University Law School’s Legal Information Institute, criminal negligence is “a failure to behave with the level of care that someone of ordinary prudence would have exercised under the same circumstances.” Negligence can consist of either action or non-action.

Who is at Fault?

One of the main considerations when determining whether a company or individual has been negligent is to decide whether someone could have been predicted that a specified behavior would cause harm. Based on the information GM received regarding the switch-related accidents and injuries, it seems all but certain that at least some individuals at the company could be considered criminally negligent.

At Regan, Zambri & Long, PLLC, we believe that companies like GM should be held accountable for the negligence that leads to defective products. If you or a loved one have been affected by the GM switch or another defective automotive problem, call us at 202-822-1899 for a free consultation with a defective product attorney to discuss your legal options.

Categories: Defective Products
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