The Federal Transportation Department recently released two internal reports that detailed the course of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s investigation of defective ignition switches in vehicles produce by General Motors.
The New York Times reports “While the reports still focused blame for the defect squarely on G.M., the nation’s largest automaker, they also included an unusually blunt assessment of mistakes made by regulators. The agency, for example, admitted it had clues of the defect that it did not pay attention to, and acknowledged that it failed to use its full authority to hold G.M. accountable.”
The internal reports have caused a stir in Congress and are instigating a series of changes to the NHTSA’s investigative procedures. However, the agency’s new administrator, Mark Rosekind, told the Times “that he had not disciplined or fired any government officials for their role in failing to force G.M. to fix its defective small cars before the automaker began recalling 2.6 million Chevrolet Cobalts, Saturn Ions and other affected models in February of last year.”
This is negligence of the highest order; at a minimum, hundreds of people were aware of the public hazard created by the defective switches and not one person took appropriate action. General Motors employees, including engineers and inside and outside lawyers, actively worked to hide the fact that a faulty ignition switch was present and killing people in their vehicles.
In addition, and even more inexcusable, the watchdog agency by the taxpayers and for the taxpayers mishandled evidence to such a degree that Senators are calling for agency-wide reforms. The agency admitted a failure to acknowledge evidence, and in doing so put unknown numbers of lives at risk. At every step of the way, the system failed those it was intended to protect.
Ultimately, we must question whether an agency so rife with error can self-correct. If no employees are going to be fired or disciplined for an error of such magnitude, is it possible that the same mistake can be made with same people in place? When this question affects millions, can we trust those who failed us in the past? In effect, who watches the watchmen?
If you or someone you know have been affected by the GM ignition recall, or have suffered needlessly because of the lack of action on behalf of a trusted government agency, please contact Crandall & Pera Law for a free consultation. We maintain offices throughout Ohio and Kentucky for your convenience.