A panel of three appellate judges in Georgia have stated General Motors CEO May Barra can be deposed in a lawsuit against the automaker for an alleged vehicle defect that plaintiff lawyers say resulted in a fatal crash.
The original case, brought by widower Robert Buchanan, says Glenda Marie Buchanan died after crashing her 2007 Chevy Trailblazer. The lawsuit states the crash was caused by a failure of the vehicle’s electronic stability control system.
About the Alleged Steering Sensor Defect
According to Reuters, the original lawsuit brought by Robert Buchanan states a failure in the Trailblazer’s electronic stability control system disabled the vehicle’s electronic stability control. The lawsuit also claims GM failed to adequately warn drivers about the alleged defect, despite knowing the component had issues.
As part of the lawsuit, Buchanan presented documents suggesting GM has experienced a series of problems with the steering sensor since 2007. The documents include high levels of warranty claims and a manufacturing flaw.
Additionally, in 2018, a GM investigation into the steering sensor was launched after evidence presented was presented in Buchanan. The probe found more than 73,700 warranty claims related to the part. This would mean that roughly 10% of the 778,000 SUVs using the component produced between 2006 and 2009 received warranty claims on the part. Another half-million remain on the road.
A company employee supported these findings during deposition.
GM denies all allegations.
Vehicles Equipped with the Allegedly Defective Steering Sensor Component
According to General Motors, the following vehicles are equipped with the steering sensor:
- 2006-2009 Chevrolet Trailblazer
- 2006-2009 GMC Envoy
- 2006-2007 Buick Rainier
- 2006-2009 Saab 9-7x
- 2006-2007 Isuzu Ascender
Georgia Judges Decision to Allow General Motors CEO be Deposed Over Fatal Accident
According to Law360, the appellate panel’s decision came Thursday as GM attempted to appeal a state trial court’s denial of a protective order request. In the request, General Motors LLC tried to shield Barra from being deposed or giving testimony in the case using the “apex doctrine.” Lawyers for GM claimed GM CEO Mary Barra had limited or no knowledge of the alleged defect and therefore the deposition was not proper.
Ultimately, the judges said there is evidence to support the support the lower court’s decision to allow deposition to occur. They added that the information plaintiffs seek from Barra is relevant and could lead to the discovery of admissible evidence.
In the opinion, Georgia Court of Appeals Judge Amanda H. Mercier wrote “There was also evidence to support the trial court’s conclusion that GM did not meet its burden of showing good cause for a protective order.” Judge Mercier added “GM argues only that the deposition would serve no other purpose than to harass Barra and subject GM to undue burden and expense.”
Allegations Reflect Previous GM Recall Scandal
Allegations made in Buchanan’s lawsuit are similar to those made in General Motor’s defective ignition switch scandal. GM faced lawsuits, federal investigations, and a congressional probe after it was found that ignition switches equipped win millions of GM vehicles could switch to accessory or off mode inadvertently, leaving drivers without power steering, power brakes, or essential safety features like airbags.
The Center for Auto Safety determined the defect resulted in more than 300 deaths.
Investigations also found that GM was aware of the defect in 2001, but failed to fully address the issue with recalls until about 2014.
Thomas J. Henry Law was essential in raising awareness about the defect, launching the multi-channeled national “My Recall Story” media campaign and worked alongside GM counsel Ken Feinberg to shape the GM Compensation Fund for victims and their families.
What to Do When Your Defective Vehicle Resulted in Injury
Drivers have enough to worry about while traversing the roadways on a daily basis. When a person gets behind the wheel of a car, there is a reasonable expectation that the car is going to perform in a matter that would not put the operator’s life in jeopardy. Unfortunately, there are hundreds of vehicle recalls each year due to manufacturer defects, from the tires to the ignition switches, that can cause catastrophic injuries and in some cases death. If you or a loved one have been injured due to a defective part in a vehicle, contact Thomas J. Henry.
Our experienced defective vehicle lawyers have handled a multitude of injury claims caused by recalled vehicles. We continue to handle cases involving faulty and dangerous GM ignition switches and Takata airbags. Call us today for a free legal consultation — our attorneys are available 24/7, nights and weekends.