Criminal Charges Filed Against General Motors for Failure to Disclose Product Defects

In August 2015, the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) levied its largest fine to date against Fiat Chrysler for the car company’s failure to fix unsafe automobiles according to the U.S. Motor Vehicle Safety Act. Pursuant to the court’s order, Fiat Chrysler’s civil penalties totaled roughly $105 million. Until the order was entered, the largest NHTSA fine assessed belonged to Honda, doled out a few months earlier, in the amount of $70 million.

Now, another major car manufacturer is finding itself in hot water over criminal charges. In a recent press release, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) announced that it is pursuing criminal charges against General Motors (GM), alleging that the Detroit-based manufacturer concealed a potentially deadly safety defect from NHTSA beginning in the spring of 2012 and continuing through February 2015. The DOJ also claims that, as a result of the deceptive act, consumers were misled regarding the purported safety of some of GM’s vehicles.

The specific defect at the core of the DOJ’s charges involves an ignition switch that was designed and manufactured with an insufficient level of torque resistance, allowing the ignition to toggle easily out of the “Run” position into either the “Accessory” or “Off” position. In instances when the switch moved from the “Run” position into another position, the car’s front airbags became compromised, leading to an increased risk of serious injury or death in accidents during which the front airbags are designed to protect the vehicle’s occupants.

The press release also stated that GM has reached an agreement with the prosecution that will defer any action in the criminal case against GM for at least three years in exchange for GM’s agreement to allow an independent monitor review its practices regarding public safety statements. GM has also agreed to forfeit approximately $900 million to the federal authorities in a parallel civil action.

According to the U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch, “Every consumer has a right to expect that car manufacturers are taking their safety seriously.” In cases involving an auto defect, a plaintiff must prove that the manufacturer’s product bore an unreasonably safe design or that the specific model in question deviated from the intended design during the manufacturing process, creating an unreasonable risk of injury. This often involves bringing in an expert to explain the product’s unreasonably dangerous condition, particularly when the product in question involves a vehicle or vehicle component.

The plaintiff must also show that the defective product caused his or her injuries and provide support for the damages that he or she is seeking in the lawsuit. Unfortunately, collisions and incidents involving defective products can result in devastating and sometimes permanent injuries for the victim, including death.

If you or someone you love has suffered injuries due to a defective product, the skilled and experienced lawyers at the Law Offices of John S. Moffa are here to help. We represent accident victims throughout Massachusetts and know just how devastating an injury can be for your family and you. We provide our clients with the personal attention and compassion that they deserve while aggressively asserting their rights. Call us now at 1-866-476-0828 or contact us online to set up your free consultation today.

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