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General Motors Releases Ignition Switch Inquiry

Tina Robinson3 years ago

It’s been three months since former U.S. attorney began his investigation into the General Motors ignition switch recall, and today those results are being released to safety regulators and Congress. According to a report in the New York Times, that report will conclude that there was no cover-up within GM.

‘Bureaucratic Problems’ and ‘Individual Failures’

GM announced the hiring of Valukas on March 10 amidst the growing crisis surrounding the recall of 2.6 million older cars with defective ignition switches. Although CEO Mary Barra has insisted that top-level executives hadn’t learned of the problem until Jan. 31, when the recall was first initiated, documents released by the company showed that various departments had known about the problem for over a decade.

Now, the findings of Valukas say the “lack of action was a result of broad bureaucratic problems and the failure of individual employees in several departments,” reports the New York Times. GM will now take action including the firing of several employees within the legal and engineering departments. Those personnel changes come in addition to four senior executives that have left the company since the recall began.

The faulty switches at the heart of the recall have been linked to 13 deaths and 47 crashes by the automaker, but officials with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) have said they believe that number to be incomplete. A design flaw with the switches allows them to be easily moved out of the “run” position when jostled or if there is extra weight on the ignition key.

Valukas Ties to GM

The report from Valukas is problematic for some because it was paid for by GM and conducted by someone with ties to the automaker. Mr. Valukas is chairman of the law firm Jenner & Block, the same company that performed securities work for GM in the past. Additionally, one of Jenner & Block’s lawyers, Robert Osborne, was the general counsel for GM from 2006 to 2009.

Also assisting with the inquiry was the law firm King & Spalding. King & Spalding was the law firm that provided defense for GM during the Melton wrongful death lawsuit. The death of Brooke Melton and subsequent lawsuit is considered the case which brought the problems with the switches to the forefront.

Victims Waiting for GM Compensation Fund

Meanwhile, victims and their families are waiting to learn what recommendations attorney Ken Feinberg will make in regards to the establishment of a GM fund to compensate them for losses and serious injuries. Feinberg was hired by GM in April to help consider possible options. Feinberg’s recommendations are expected later this month.

Thomas J. Henry is representing more than 1,000 GM recall victims across the United States and has been investigating injuries and deaths linked to the recall since day one. The firm launched a nationwide media investigation into the recall in April, which brought forth thousands of affected individuals who had information critical to the investigation – information that the firm has handed over to federal agencies also investigating GM’s sluggish response the recall. As more and more individuals have flocked to Thomas J. Henry for representation, the firm has continued to push GM for a victim settlement fund. The firm has had several talks with GM’s victim compensation expert Ken Feinberg regarding appropriate victim compensation for the thousands affected by a fatal design flaw in ignition switches which left numerous dead and countless others seriously injured. 

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