The General Motors ignition switch debacle has been splashed across the news in varying degrees for years. The Department of Justice has recently ended the controversy with decisive action, and it looks like the story is just going to go away. News media’s coverage of the agreement has been perfunctory at best.
We submit that the Department of Justice handled the GM ignition switch scandal astoundingly badly. As a condition of the final settlement, there will be no criminal charges. General Motors was fined less than $1 billion, significantly less than Toyota received several years ago for their sticking accelerator issue.
Why everyone should be outraged
The deaths were the result of a decade long cover-up, perpetuated by the company’s intentional conduct to hide the issue. This type of gross corporate negligence is inexcusable, and the Department of Justice essentially punished GM with a slap on the wrist.
The DOJ agreed to defer prosecution in the case, placing the company on a three-year probation. The charges, by the way, would have been for failure to disclose a defect. Not for intentional conduct, not for killing people – but for failing to report a problem. The DOJ said that GM’s executives were extraordinarily cooperative after the issue was uncovered. Tell that to the families of those killed by their mistake.
No indictments, no criminal charges: no one will be punished for directly causing the deaths of 124 people. No one will suffer financially with the possible exception of GM’s stockholders. The DOJ managed to shove a little more money into the government’s coffers, and in doing so, passed on the message that killing people with your products, while frowned upon, is ultimately forgivable if you apologize.
Protecting the people once again
GM’s ignition switch recall was an outrage, and constituted negligence in the highest degree. The company lied about the scope and scale of the issue and lied about the number of people affected. They attempted to save face by downplaying an issue that cost 124 people their lives. The number of deaths, by the way, was not freely submitted by GM but was instead uncovered by plaintiff’s lawyers diligently working to correct a life-threatening wrong.
The difference between a good resolution to this abhorrent situation and the resolution that we got is very simple. The difference is about 5 plaintiff’s lawyers that could have represented the friends and families of those who were killed by GM’s gross negligence. Those lawyers would have ensured that the message hit home for GM – that people suffered on their watch because of their mistakes. General Motors and the Department of Justice should be ashamed.
The power of an experienced plaintiff personal injury attorney cannot be denied. At Crandall & Pera Law, our personal injury lawyers help people, like the victims of the GM defect, every single day. To learn more about our services, please contact us to reserve a consultation time at one of our offices in Ohio or Kentucky.