Many keystrokes have been typed about General Motors’ faulty ignition switches and the tragic deaths of at least thirteen people who died when their airbags failed to deploy because of the defect. Yesterday, GM released the report of its own internal investigation, performed by Anton R. Valukas. Mr. Valukas and his team made many interesting findings and I expect we will write more postings about the report and its importance to our practice. The most interesting finding to us, though, related to the role of products liability lawsuits in uncovering the truth about GM’s defective cars. Our firm has a great deal of experience in products liability lawsuits, and in automobile defect and crashworthiness cases in particular, so we have been following the story closely.
In 2012, lawyers representing a deceased client’s family sued GM and hired an expert witness engineer named Erin Shipp, P.E. to investigate their clients’ death. Despite having received very few documents from General Motors in the course of the lawsuit, the expert witness was able to make the connection between the faulty ignition switch and the failure of the airbags to deploy at the time of an automobile collision. The Valukas Report lauded the expert witness for making the connection even before GM personnel were able to do so.
This highlights the very important role that the civil justice system plays in holding corporations accountable for the products they sell to the public at large. In this case, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration had twice concluded that there was no connection between the ignition switch and the failure of the airbags to deploy. Ms. Shipp and the plaintiff’s lawyers discovered the fatal automobile defect that GM had not adequately addressed for eleven years. This defect resulted in as many as 54 front-impact crashes in which the airbags did not deploy, and as many as 13 deaths. Because of Ms. Shipp’s report, as well as other investigations into the potential defect, GM ultimately recalled more than 1.3 million automobiles and potentially saved countless additional lives.
The attorneys at Bekman, Marder, Hopper, Malarkey & Perlin, LLC retain expert witnesses in a majority of the cases our law firm handles, including claims of medical negligence, products liability, premises liability, maritime, and even automobile accidents. Interacting with expert witnesses such as doctors, engineers, scientists, and economists is a fundamental part of preparing our clients’ cases, and we have a great deal of experience working with experts to do so. This frequent interaction not only helps us better present our clients’ cases, but also gives us an advantage in identifying the errors and weaknesses in the testimony of experts hired by insurance companies and corporations who are trying to avoid liability or minimize our clients’ injuries and losses.
If you think that the injury or death of a loved one requires investigation by a qualified expert witness, call us today to discuss your case. We have worked with expert witnesses in almost every field, and are prepared to do so for you.