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General Motors’ Failure to Disclose Product Defects Leads to Criminal Charges

gmcThere’s a well-known expression to the effect, “As goes General Motors, so goes the nation.” That is a rather unsettling thought, given recent developments in the continuing saga over GM’s alleged failure to properly disclose safety violations in some of their automobiles.

According to a press release from the Unites States Department of Justice, GM has admitted that it failed to disclose safety defects – some of which were potentially deadly – to not only the public but also to federal regulators. Consequently, an independent monitor is to be appointed to oversee GM’s future behavior with regard to safety concerns.

Criminal Charges Against GM

The release stated that GM was being charged criminally with “concealing a potentially deadly safety defect” during 2012-2014 and that such concealment resulted in consumers being misled about the vehicle safety of certain automobiles made by GM. In particular, a defective ignition switch was mentioned as having been made with torque resistance that was too low, thus causing it to easily move from “run” to “off” or to “accessory.”

According to federal officials, the defective switch could disable the frontal airbags in the affected vehicles (certain Chevy Cobalts and HHRs, Pontiac G5s and Solstices, and Saturn Ions and Skys). GM has admitted that these defective automobiles, which were manufactured between 2003 and 2007, have caused 15 people to perish.

The Agreement with the Government

In the agreement between the government and GM, the government will defer the prosecution of its criminal case alleging that GM engaged in wire fraud and a scheme to conceal material facts from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). In exchange, an independent monitor will review GM’s practices concerning public statements pertaining to safety, and GM will forfeit $900 million to the federal government as part of a parallel civil action.

A Long History of Failing to Disclose Safety Issues

The government’s statement makes it clear that GM not only failed to disclose safety defects but that it did so “actively.” The statement indicates that GM engineers were aware of the defective switch as early as 2002, but the company approved its production despite such knowledge. In 2005, the company publicly acknowledged the defective switch but insisted that there were no safety concerns resulting from the issue. Rather than deal with the problem in a timely fashion, GM reportedly chose to delay full disclosure of the possible effects of the bad part (via a recall) until it could “fully package, present, explain, and handle” the problem. Unfortunately for consumers, that did not happen until 2014, even though supervisors and attorneys at GM (not only investigating engineers) knew of the defective switch in 2012.

To Speak to an Attorney About a Defective Product

If you or a family member has been involved in a car accident that you believe may have been caused or worsened by a product defect, you need to speak to an attorney about the possibility of filing a lawsuit seeking financial compensation for your injuries. Call the Law Offices of John C. Manoog, III, at 888-262-6664 for an appointment at our Hyannis or Plymouth office. Remember that there are strict time limitations for filing a product liability case or other personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit, so do not delay in seeking counsel concerning your situation.

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