Criminal charges urged in GM defect probe

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The AP reports that the families of “those who died in General Motors cars with defective ignition switches want prosecutors to go after GM insiders responsible for letting the problems fester for more than a decade – and perhaps for covering them up. ‘The only way the public is going to be protected from this negligence by companies is if there will ultimately be prison sentences,’ said Leo Ruddy of Scranton, Pa., whose 21-year-old daughter Kelly was killed in 2010 when her Chevrolet Cobalt veered inexplicably off the highway and crashed.” Family members “attended hearings in Washington last week that stoked those sentiments,” as lawmakers “confronted GM CEO Mary Barra with what they said was evidence that, in 2006, a company employee intentionally tried to conceal the switch problem,” and the “head of the nation’s auto safety watchdog said GM withheld critical information that connected the failing switch to air bags that didn’t deploy in a crash.”

Reuters reports that Sen. Claire McCaskill said on Sunday that GM should make restitution to the families of victims and possibly face criminal charges if warranted. McCaskill said on ABC’s “This Week” that GM faces “a real moment of truth” in its internal probe of the malfunctions. When asked on the show about possible criminal charges against individual company officials, McCaskill said, “You know we had the Citizens United case where our Supreme Court said corporations are people … but if in fact they are people, there needs to be some criminal accountability depending on what the facts of the investigation show. I know the Justice Department is taking a hard look at this.”

McCaskill said on ABC’s This Week , “You don’t need an investigation to understand that they had a defective switch and someone at GM in the engineering department changed that switch and didn’t change the part number. There is no reason to keep the same part number unless you’re trying to hide the fact that you’ve got a defective switch out there that in fact ended up killing a number of people on our highways.”

GM to compensate victims of defective vehicles.

TIME reports General Motors chief executive Mary Barra last week testified before Congress that “the company is considering compensating families” of the 13 people who died in accidents caused by faulty ignition switches in its Cobalt and other small-engine vehicles. For advice “on possible compensation,” GM “tapped attorney Kenneth Feinberg, who is known for helping distribute cash to 9/11 families and those affected by the Boston Marathon bombings.” Time faults the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which didn’t launch a formal investigation into the ignition switch issue in 2007, and GM, which decided “not to replace the switch in 2005 at a cost of about $1 per car.” GM has “apologized but has done little to address perceptions of company negligence or propose a solution so it doesn’t happen again, says University of Southern California marketing professor Ira Kalb.”

Owners of recalled GM vehicles in Maine continue driving as replacement parts are unavailable. The Portland (ME) Press Herald reports that Maine drivers with recalled GM vehicles are anxious or confused “because GM announced the recall in stages” since February 13. Pointing out that “GM has admitted to knowing about” the ignition-switch problem “for a decade,” the story says that Maine’s GM dealers have had to inform owners “to call back later because replacement parts for the faulty switches aren’t yet available.” In Maine alone, “there are 4,775 Cobalts registered … including 148 in Portland.” According to the report’s portrayal of the average driver of a recalled GM vehicle, most GM owners are electing to continue using their vehicles, albeit cautiously.

GM delivers 200,000 documents to NHTSA. Reuters reports with continuing coverage of the General Motors’ recalls and the Federal investigations into the automaker. The article says that GM handed over 200,000 pages of documents to NHTSA on Thursday, in addition to giving answers on 65 percent of the safety agency’s 107 questions that NHTSA wants clarified, according to GM spokesperson Greg Martin. A statement from NHTSA does not mention when the agency might make those documents available to the public, but the statement confirmed, NHTSA would “take appropriate action based on the agency’s review.” The report also mentions that this past week, GM CEO Mary Barra was under fire from a House panel that accused GM’s corporate culture of misconduct in covering up any awareness of a defect.

CNN’s Money reports, the documents GM provided “are expected to shed light on the number of people who have been killed in accidents caused by problems with the defective ignition switch.” As for a timetable for when NHTSA might make the documents public, the article notes that the agency “said it will probably spend weeks going through the filings and removing any information that shouldn’t be made public, such personal information about any of the crash victims.”

Texas judge demands GM provide more information on recalled vehicles. Bloomberg News reports that at a Federal court hearing yesterday in Corpus Christi, Texas US District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos directed GM “to provide more explanation for why she shouldn’t force it to tell drivers of 2.59 million recalled small cars to ‘park it’ until faulty ignition switches are fixed.” Reuters has similar coverage.

The New York Times reports that GM claims that the 2.6 million cars it recalled for faulty ignition switches “are safe as long as extra items are removed from the key ring,” but “some consumer advocates and lawmakers have urged G.M. to warn owners not to drive the cars until they are fixed, saying that they still pose a danger.” Mentioning Ramos’ having “refrained from ruling on an emergency motion,” the article goes on to pose and answer several questions about the GM recall, including answers to “When can I get my car fixed?” and “Is my car safe to drive until it’s repaired?”

GM dealers ready for “onslaught” of recall-vehicle returns. Bloomberg News reports that with GM having received such bad press in the past few weeks, “GM dealers are gearing up for an onslaught of owners returning to their stores next week to receive repairs on the 2.59 million cars the automaker has recalled for faulty ignition switches.” In both the headline and the report, Bloomberg News characterizes the GM dealers “as therapists to customers,” especially as customers call in “with worries about the flaw.”

We believe that obtaining legal satisfaction from those who harmed you shouldn’t require more hardship. That’s why we do everything we can to streamline the process, and we will file a lawsuit on your behalf if necessary. If you or a loved one has been affected by this recall, and you believe it caused an injury, contact Chhabra & Gibbs today by going to www.cglawms.com or by calling this number: 601-948-8005.

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