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General Motors Ignores Automobile Defects; Leads to 35 Deaths and a $400 million loss for the company

2014 set a new record for most collective product recalls with an astonishing 32 million. Responsible for more than half of those recalls is General Motors, the world’s largest automaker. Why the sudden influx in recalls? GM has been in the spotlight recently for a decision made nearly a decade ago that is just now coming to light.

In 2005, Raymond DeGiorgio—an engineer working at General Motors—was on the hunt for an ignition switch to be used in the year’s new line of cars. Because Delphi and GM were already business partners, and because time was ticking, DeGiorgio made an under-the-table deal with Delphi Automotive—Delphi didn’t necessarily agree with all of the conditions.

DeGiorgio allegedly pressured a Delphi employee by the name of Thomas Svoboda to hastily close the deal. Svoboda used the word “bullied” in an email he wrote explaining the situation. Svoboda was extremely hesitant in doing so, and with good reason.

The ignition switch being considered in the deal was faulty. It was still early in design and in a prototypical state; it was far from ready to be installed in vehicles that would be available to the public; Delphi was well aware of this.

Because it wasn’t a “group decision” per se, and handled almost solely by DeGiorgio, higher-ups at General Motors weren’t necessarily intervening as they should have. The sneaky deal was signed (against the good will of Svoboda) and initiated. The 2005 model of small cars including the Chevrolet Cobalt and Saturn Ion being produced by GM now contained the bad switches.

Why were these ignition switches faulty?

There’s got to be some resistance, or torque, in these ignition switches to prevent accidental activation or deactivation. This particular model had a bad component in it that would require research, money, and time to fix. This bad component lowered the torque in the ignition switch to the point where a slight bump of the key could cut the engine or power to accessories (most notably the airbags).

A driver could be traveling at highway-speeds and accidently bump the key, turning off the engine, hindering power brakes and steering, and disabling the airbags. In this scary situation, it would be very difficult to prevent an accident, and in the event that said driver crashed, the lack of airbags greatly increases the chance of serious injury or death. And it has. These faulty ignition switches have been linked to an outstanding 35 deaths and thousands of injuries.

General Motors takes actions to correct the problem…slowly.

The 2005 model cars that DeGiorgio was so eager to start production on began selling pretty well; they were now in the hands of consumers everywhere. They were also tested by safety experts for flaws. Over and over again by professionals and casual drivers alike, complaints related to the ignition switch were spewed.

DeGiorgio maintained his casual attitude regarding the situation and proceeded to “assist” the company (who was relatively unaware of the drastic defects of the switch) in solving it. Finally, in 2007, DeGiorgio worked with Delphi to correct the issue and produce safer, more advanced ignition switches. By this point, however, millions of cars had already driven off the lot—all of which were equipped with deathtraps.

Since then, an incredible amount of lawsuits have been filed against General Motors, most pertaining to personal injury, wrongful death, and product liability. DeGiorgio was fired from the company after an investigation proved constant and obvious negligence on his part. General Motors has also hired a claims handler to compensate those who are entitled to such, setting aside $400 million for victims.

How much money does General Motors stand to lose?

They could be losing a lot more money than that, however. Beth Melton lost her daughter Brooke in an accident that is tied to the faulty ignition switch of her Chevrolet Cobalt. She turned down GM’s $1 million settlement offer for wrongful death compensation and is instead preparing to bring the company to court. She is among the first victims to do so but is likely not the last. If a group of victims deny the company’s offer and choose to litigate instead, courtrooms will likely tie the cases together and award a split sum of punitive damages to each plaintiff.

These punitive damages are court-ordered monetary punishments against companies to “teach them a lesson”. While the $400 million is an extremely large amount of money, it’s not life-changing for General Motors. These punitive damages are weighed and adjusted based on the company’s total worth; this ensures a truly harsh effect as a result of their negligent actions.


Here in Clearwater, Florida, Sibley Dolman Gipe Accident Injury Lawyers, PA focuses on securing the compensation that our clients deserve and need when they are injured due to someone else’s negligence. If the life of a loved one has been wrongfully cut short because of someone else’s lack of care, the stress of the situation is only increased when medical bills, funeral costs, and other expenses arise.

While we know that no amount of money could ever replace the precious and invaluable life of a family member or beloved friend, we also understand that a normal life can be difficult to re-obtain after going through such a traumatic event; for everyone involved. With that said, it’s easy to understand why we would want to dedicate our time to the innocent families that are torn apart by the wrongdoing of others.

To prove our honest commitment, we offer a free consultation and case evaluation, and in the event that you’d like us to litigate for you and your case, we’ll promise to collect attorney fees only if we secure compensation for you. Contact us today or visit our website at www.dolmanlaw.com.

Sibley Dolman Gipe Accident Injury Lawyers, PA
800 North Belcher Road
Clearwater, FL 33756

Practice Area: Wrongful Death, Automobile Accident, and Product Liability