Lieff Cabraser Civil Justice Blog
GM Ignition Injury Lawsuits

GM Ignition Engineers Forbidden from Using Certain Terms to Warn About Defect

As reported by Law360, a former automotive industry engineer testified in a Tuesday bellwether trial that General Motors engineers were forbidden by company policy from utilizing certain terms like “problem” or “bad” (and even terms like “rolling sarcophagus,” which even needing a policy against speaks volumes about issues with the switches themselves) when describing the GM ignition switches. This consequently prevented these engineers from warning officials about the failing ignition switches and product defect.

Other words that GM engineers were directed to avoid using include: “safety,” “big time,” “good,” “defect,” “ghastly,” “Challenger,” “powder keg,” “deathtrap,” and “widow-maker.”

The ignition switch defect can cause a vehicle’s engine and electrical system to suddenly turn off, also disabling the air bags. For over a decade, GM was aware of this product defect and failed to inform government safety regulators and the general public.

When GM finally initiated an auto recall in 2014, the carmaker maintained that the deaths of 13 individuals were the only known fatalities linked to its faulty ignition switch system. However, the defect has been implicated in the deaths of over 300 people, along with thousands of serious injuries where the front air bags failed to deploy. It has been reported that GM could have fixed the defective switch for as little as 57 cents per vehicle.

“This practice of limiting how engineers can describe situations was one of the factors that allowed this situation to stay down and not get the attention that it needed for such a long time,” former Delphi engineer Steve Loudon told the court. “You’re limiting [engineers] from being as precise and accurate as they could be.”

On August 15, 2014, U.S. District Court Judge Jesse M. Furman appointed Lieff Cabraser name partner and co-founder Elizabeth J. Cabraser as Co-Lead Plaintiffs’ Counsel in the GM ignition switch litigation in federal court.

GM Ignition Defect Injury Attorneys at Lieff Cabraser

Automakers have a legal duty to produce cars that are safe, and promptly correct any known safety defects. Damages in personal injury lawsuits against auto manufacturers for selling defective vehicles with safety flaws include damages for.

  • Past and future physical pain and suffering, mental anguish and physical impairment;
  • Past and future medical, incidental and hospital expenses;
  • Past and future loss of earnings and earning capacity; and
  • Punitive damages in cases of egregious misconduct.

If the driver or occupant was killed, surviving family members may file a wrongful death lawsuit.

Lieff Cabraser has successfully represented individuals across the United States injured in car accidents due to safety defects in the vehicles. Learn more about the GM Faulty Ignition Recall here.