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Sunday, April 6, 2014

Like Them or Hate Them, Injury Lawsuits Sometimes Expose Health and Safety Hazards

Today's post was shared by FairWarning and comes from

GM Chief Executive Officer Mary Barra testifies during a House Energy and Commerce hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington April 1, 2014. Congress is trying to establish who is to blame for at least 13 auto-related deaths over the past decade, as public hearings are held over two days on General Motors Co's slow response to defective ignition switches in cars.

GM CEO Mary Barra testifies before the House Energy and Commerce Committee as Congress tries to fix blame for long delays in recalling cars with defective ignition switches linked to at least 13 crash deaths. Photo by Kevin Lamarque/Reuters.

Protecting consumers from dangerous product defects should be the job of federal regulation, and often it is. But sometimes product injury litigation, carried out in the arena of the courtroom, plays a critical role in exposing hazards that elude regulators and that manufacturers conceal.

Two current, highly publicized examples are the General Motors ignition switch malfunction and the Toyota “sudden unintended acceleration” hazard, both serious defects that regulators failed to move against as promptly and vigorously as they should have.

Earlier this year GM recalled more than two million Cobalts and other vehicles with the defective ignition switches. If jarred, the switches can inadvertently shut down a car’s engine and electrical system, thus disabling its air bags, power brakes and power steering. Only now has the company admitted knowing about the defect for more than ten years, even though it was being sued as early as 2009 for crash deaths caused by the faulty switch.

It turns out that the defect was not exposed by engineers from GM or the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration but by an outside engineer. Mark Hood was working for a plaintiff’s attorney in Melton v. GM, a Georgia lawsuit...

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