On July 4, 2004, Shara Lynne Towne, 37, wife and mother, was killed in a single car crash while wearing her seatbelt, when her Saturn Ion struck a utility pole in a parking lot. Auto product liability lawyers, BISNAR|CHASE filed suit against GM related to the crash in 2006 in what became known as the first fatality related to the faulty ignition switch. GM settled in a confidential settlement agreement in 2007. Without question, Mrs. Towne’s husband and children continue to suffer the loss and July 4th will forever have a far different meaning in their lives.
There have been at least 12 additional fatalities reported that had GM “done the right thing” could have been avoided. The lives of countless family members have been permanently impacted by the decisions made by the folks at GM. One woman even suffered a false conviction related to an accident that killed her finance, when in reality the accident was caused by a faulty GM ignition system. We’ve since learned that the defect could’ve been corrected for less than $1 per vehicle.
As we approach the 10 year anniversary of the death of Shara Lynne Towne, and as we remember the families of the other victims who lost their lives as a result of GM’s decisions perhaps consumers should be asking in the face of GM’s long overdue public statements, “Does GM Really Care?”
Brian Chase, the senior litigation partner at BISNAR|CHASE who represented Towne’s family, told The New York Times “GM knew of this defect back then and yet made a decision to quietly settle out of court so there would be no media or government attention,” Chase said. Chase also said he is skeptical about the impartiality of Anton Valukas who was hired by GM to conduct the internal investigation. "This was a person whom GM paid to conduct the investigation. To whom does he owe his allegiance? Could this be considered an objective, unbiased report? “I don't think so. To me, it seems like the fox guarding the henhouse. It is a scandal that this company not only failed to recall vehicles in a timely manner, but also gave victims and their families the runaround," Chase said. "Now, they are offering to set up a compensation program, which will be directed by the allegedly unbiased, Valukas. They need to step up and take responsibility here instead of making more attempts to dodge liability." What is GM really doing to demonstrate remorse?
Brian Chase and his Partners at BISNAR|CHASE will continue the fight to ensure that GM and other corporate giants are held accountable for decisions that result in preventable and unnecessary harm to consumers.
Brian Chase is the President-Elect of the Consumer Attorneys of California.
Senior Vice President, Client Services
Photo Credit: Paul Sancya via AP