Posted by: Salvatore J. Zambri, founding member andpartner
Internal evaluations by General Motors of fatal crashes involving their ignition switch defect conflict with what they were telling federal regulators at the time of the crashes. A recent investigative story by the New York Times indicates that questions from “death inquiries” by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) were dodged with responses from GM such as “could not provide answers,” “had not assessed the cause,” “attorney-client privilege,” and “G.M. opts not to respond.”
Through the Freedom of Information Act, the NY Times learned that a GM engineer had determined previously that engine shutoff was most likely the reason for a deadly crash. However, in its response to regulators, GM said there may not have been “sufficiently reliable information to accurate assess the cause” of the incident. Another deadly crash investigation revealed that GM lawyers warned GM that it could be liable for punitive damages because of known problems with air bags. Six days after their lawyers’ warning, GM replied to NHTSA that “any privileged material related to the case would not be shared.”
In April, 2014, during the Senate hearing “Examining the GM Recall and NHTSA’s Defective Investigation Process,” Acting Administrator David Friedman presented the statement below:
Mr. Friedman indicated that “G.M.’s decision-making, structure, process and corporate culture stood in the way of safety.” Behavior such as this is why consumers are increasingly leary of GM’s reassurances that it is working for safety. Placing profit above safety is how incidents such as the delayed ignition switch recall occurred. If you own or drive any of the vehicles included in the GM ignition switch recall, contact your dealer for guidelines for repair.
About the author:
Mr. Zambri is a board-certified civil trial attorney by the National Board of Trial Advocates and a Past-President of the Trial Lawyers Association of Metropolitan Washington, D.C. The association recently named him “Trial Lawyer of the Year” (2011). Super Lawyers recently named him among the “Top Ten” lawyers in the Metro Area (out of more than 80,000 attorneys). He has been rated by Washingtonian magazine as a “Big Gun” and among the “top 100” lawyers in the entire metropolitan area. The magazine also describes him as “one of Washington’s best–most honest and effective lawyers” who specializes in personal injury matters, including automobile accident claims, premises liability, product liability, medical malpractice, and work-accident claims. He has successfully litigated multiple cases against truck and bus companies, the Washington Metropolitan Area transit Authority, and other automobile owners. His law firm, in fact, has obtained the largest settlement ever in a personal injury case involving WMATA. Mr. Zambri has also been acknowledged as one of “The Best Lawyers in America” by Best Lawyers (2014 edition) and has been repeatedly named a “Super Lawyer” by Super Lawyer magazine (2014) — national publications that honor the top lawyers in America.