We know that personal injury lawsuits are sometimes the only way that people can be protected over those dedicated, even obsessed, with making more money and the pursuit of profits. It is why we do what we do (read our firm philosophy here). So, when the New York Times expose regarding the recent GM recalls was published this week, it only served to energize our passion for helping injury victims while enflaming our sense of justice: how can General Motors Corporation, of all the car makers out there, have ever thought that it could evade justice regarding these product defects?
1968’s Larsen v. General Motors: Landmark Case
Consider the Larsen case of 1968, the lawsuit that made GM liable for its cars: there, a man named David Larsen was driving his GM-built Chevolet Corvair when he was hit head-on and died horrifically as the car’s steering wheel was thrust by the force of impact into Mr. Larsen’s head.
GM’s design of the Corvair’s steering wheel column was shown to be defective. While General Motors argued that car manufacturers had no duty to design their products to make sure the car had protections for the occupants in the event of a crash, the court ruled otherwise.
Larsen was the cornerstone case that demanded car companies build their cars with safety in mind. Larsen has been cited by judges in literally 1000s of courts since the opinion was first issued over 45 years ago — and it was GENERAL MOTORS that was the defendant in that historic precedent.
General Motors contends that it has no duty to produce a vehicle in which it is safe to collide or which is accident-proof or incapable of injurious misuse. It views its duty as extending only to producing a vehicle that is reasonably fit for its intended use or for the purpose for which it was made and that is free from hidden defects; and that the intended use of a vehicle and the purpose for which it is manufactured do not include its participation in head-on collisions or any other type of impact, regardless of the manufacturer’s ability to foresee that such collisions may occur. ….
The intended use and purpose of an automobile is to travel on the streets and highways, which travel more often than not is in close proximity to other vehicles and at speeds that carry the possibility, probability, and potential of injury-producing impacts. The realities of the intended and actual use are well known to the manufacturer and to the public and these realities should be squarely faced by the manufacturer and the courts. We perceive of no sound reason, either in logic or experience, nor any command in precedent, why the manufacturer should not be held to a reasonable duty of care in the design of its vehicle consonant with the state of the art to minimize the effect of accidents.
The manufacturers are not insurers but should be held to a standard of reasonable care in design to provide a reasonably safe vehicle in which to travel. Ford Motor Company v. Zahn, supra. Our streets and highways are increasingly hazardous for the intended normal use of travel and transportation. While advances in highway engineering and non-access, dual highways have considerably increased the safety factor on a miles traveled ratio to accidents, the constant increasing number of vehicles gives impetus to the need of designing and constructing a vehicle that is reasonably safe for the purpose of such travel. At least, the unreasonable risk should be eliminated and reasonable steps in design taken to minimize the injury-producing effect of impacts.
New York Times Reports GM Documents Show General Motors Knew of Defects As People Were Dying
In a report written by Rebecca R. Ruiz and Danielle Ivory this week, the New York Times is reporting (”Documents Show General Motors Kept Silent on Fatal Crashes,” July 15, 2014) their investigation has revealed that while people were dying from product defects now subject to recall and federal agencies were asking GM questions about these fatal crashes, General Motors was shrugging its shoulders to the federal questioning while internally, its own people had determined that the car’s components were causing the deaths.
In sum, GM may had hidden known flaws in its products, and continued to sell them for well over a decade, and then gone so far as to keep silent about this when the federal safety people came to question GM about what was happening with its cars.
Think of the billions of dollars GM took in over those 10 years — was it really worth the deaths of all these people?
When people argue that personal injury law isn’t a worthy endeavor and is, in and of itself, motivated by a love of profits, consider Larsen and what is happening right now.
It is through personal injury litigation that those who have been hurt by GM’s wrongdoing will find justice — and it is through personal injury cases that have been filed and will be filed in the future that General Motors will be made to understand that this kind of behavior is intolerable in the United States using the only language that GM apparently understands: the bottom line.