Articles Posted in Recalled Products

A case against the automaker General Motors was first settled and then refiled after it was revealed that GM had chosen not to report the ignition switch defect to the public for more than 10 years. This was claimed to have been fraudulent concealment.

In this particular Georgia case, the parents of a 29-year-old woman, Brooke Melton, refiled a lawsuit against General Motors because new facts were revealed that related to the automaker’s knowledge that long predated the settlement. She was killed in a GM car in 2010 when the ignition switch on her Chevrolet Cobalt failed and caused the crash that tragically ended her life. General Motors and the family of Melton settled her wrongful-death action last year.

After the refiled lawsuit was put in place, GM moved to dismiss the case by motion. The Georgia judge presiding denied the motion. In fact, the presiding judge ordered that General Motors begin the discovery process by producing written materials and documents that had been requested by the Melton family attorneys. In addition, General Motors will be subject to written discovery by depositions to be taken of GM personnel as the case moves along.

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Brooke Melton, 29, died allegedly because of the General Motors’ ignition switch flaw. Her case had been pending for a period of time when it was settled by General Motors in October 2013. The settlement was reached before General Motors was found to have been downplaying and otherwise concealing the ignition switch problems from consumers and lawyers involved in these tragic cases.

Although the Melton case was settled, the Melton family lawyers want to reopen the case and show that General Motors was guilty of fraudulent concealment regarding the switch problem. If the Meltons are successful in reopening this case, other settled injury or death cases arising from the ignition switch defect may be reopened for further consideration.

Today the lawsuits or claims management of the many ignition switch injury cases are being handled by attorney Kenneth Feinberg, whose group has settled hundreds of the GM death and injury claims from crashes that were caused by the ignition switch defect.

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General Motors has been accused in the deaths of at least 13 individuals because of its deliberate concealment of a defect linked to the faulty ignition switch in more than 2.59 million vehicles. Some lawyers have revived lawsuits because of injuries or deaths as a result of the recalled GM vehicles. It has been reported that GM is concerned about punitive damages. In one case that was settled in September for $5 million, an adviser warned GM of a “substantial adverse verdict” if a jury learned about the fact that GM knew about the defect for almost a decade before it acknowledged the problem.

In addition, GM should be concerned about the cost-cutting features related to the ignition switch. If these cases were to go to a jury, the jurors would learn that the ignition switch problems that have been highlighted by some reports, articles and now lawsuits could have been avoided by a repair that would have cost the company an incredibly small amount, perhaps less than $1 per vehicle. The repair work would have avoided all of these accidents, injuries and deaths.

The delay in acknowledging the deadly ignition switch defect would show a jury how indifferent the company was to the safety of vehicle owners and their passengers. In fact, GM may have been able to fix the ignition switch defect for as little as 57 cents per vehicle. Because of that fact, it goes without saying that lawyers will highlight the fact that such a little bit of money to repair the ignition switch would have avoided the many traumatic deaths and injuries suffered by vehicle owners and occupants, if not for GM’s focus on profits over people.

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Allen Plyler had purchased and installed a Whirlpool microwave oven for his home. Seven years later, in October 2006, Plyer used the microwave to heat up some food. Eight hours later, Plyer was awakened by a fire that began in the microwave. He tried to put out the fire but suffered physical and emotional injuries.

As a result of his injuries, Plyler filed a lawsuit against Whirlpool claiming strict product liability and negligent recall. At trial, the Whirlpool global product safety director testified about the defect in some microwaves that Whirlpool had recalled. The corporate product safety director testified that the microwave would catch fire only if it contained food splatters and was running immediately before the fire. Plyler testified at trial that the microwave was clean and wasn’t in use before the fire started.

The jury found in favor of Whirlpool on both the claim for strict product liability and negligent recall; Plyler moved for a new trial. The federal magistrate judge who considered the post-trial motion for a new trial concluded that a rational jury could have accepted the product safety director’s testimony, combined with Plyler’s testimony about the state of the microwave, and could conclude that Whirlpool was not responsible for Plyler’s injuries. The court also noted that the jury could have reasonably rejected Plyler’s argument that Whirlpool should have made additional efforts to notify him of the recall.

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The U.S. Justice Department reached a settlement with Johnson & Johnson, which is the maker of Risperdal. The settlement of $2.2 billion and a misdemeanor plea comes after a long investigation into the marketing of the pharmaceutical product, Risperdal. It is an anti-psychotic drug known to deliver harmful side effects, especially to young boys and young men most often prescribed the medicine.

In this case, the Department of Justice engaged several whistleblowers around the country to help the investigation and act as Johnson & Johnson informants. In fact, collectively, the whistleblowers will receive upwards of $167 million for their efforts.

The whistleblowers took great risk in assisting the Department of Justice in this investigation. Some of the whistleblowers went undercover, wore a wire, helped in prepping the department lawyers for depositions and otherwise risked their livelihood and their careers.

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It would be hard to miss the multiple news releases and stories that General Motors has some big problems with its 2005-2007 Chevrolet Cobalt and its 2007 Pontiac G5.  General Motors is recalling these vehicles because a heavy key chain or rough roads can jar the key, turn off the engine and disable the airbags.  According to recent reports, General Motors has linked the defect to 31 crashes and 12 deaths.

However, there were no recalls of these vehicle until this year, so used car buyers considering a General Motors model may not have known of the faulty ignition switches.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has said that on outstanding recalls, about 30% of the owners do not return the car to the dealer for the recall fix.  Carfax, which sells reports tracing the history of used cars, says that 3.5 million vehicles were sold last year that had defects subject to a manufacturer’s recall but had not had the repair done.

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