Many keystrokes have been typed about General Motors’ faulty ignition switches and the tragic deaths of at least thirteen people who died when their airbags failed to deploy because of the defect. Yesterday, GM released the report of its own internal investigation, performed by Anton R. Valukas. Mr. Valukas and his team made many interesting findings and I expect we will write more postings about the report and its importance to our practice. The most interesting finding to us, though, related to the role of products liability lawsuits in uncovering the truth about GM’s defective cars. Our firm has a great deal of experience in products liability lawsuits, and in automobile defect and crashworthiness cases in particular, so we have been following the story closely.
In 2012, lawyers representing a deceased client’s family sued GM and hired an expert witness engineer named Erin Shipp, P.E. to investigate their clients’ death. Despite having received very few documents from General Motors in the course of the lawsuit, the expert witness was able to make the connection between the faulty ignition switch and the failure of the airbags to deploy at the time of an automobile collision. The Valukas Report lauded the expert witness for making the connection even before GM personnel were able to do so.