Monday, June 16, 2014

"Secret Settlements Fueled GM's Latest Ethical Inferno" //Richard Zitrin // Legal Ethics forum

For thirty years GM, aided by its lawyers, suppressed the fact that plaintiffs were successfully suing the company for a dangerous design.  The settlements were made with stipulations of secrecy.  Lawyers pride themselves on their zeal.  But that creates both motivation and peer pressure to maximize the client's interests in a zero sum game.  Courts rarely interfere with - or even inquire about - a private settlement.  So the net result of GM's lawyers's zeal is shameful because it facilitated GM's false public denials and derived injured parties of the ability to learn (via discovery and exchange with other lawyers) about other accidents - which would have strengthened the victims claims.  
Where lies the source of this problem and where the cure? - gwc
Legal Ethics Forum: "Secret Settlements Fueled GM's Latest Ethical Inferno":
by Richard Zitrin
Memories are short, even when it comes to outrageous corporate behavior, and even when that behavior relates to hundreds of accidents and deaths and hundreds of millions of dollars paid. So here's a pop quiz: How many people remember the story in the 1980s and 1990s of GM's side-mounted gas tank fires? Here's a reminder: For years, many GM trucks had side-mounted gas tanks that did not sit within the frame of the vehicle. Eventually consumer groups and news organizations began claiming these gas tanks were defective because of how easily they could catch on fire or explode in side-impact accidents. But GM insistently denied there was a problem. And there was virtually no evidence that crash victims had been suing GM.Still, the criticism continued. Clarence Ditlow, then and now head of the original Nader Raider organization, the Center for Auto Safety, continued to say the gas tanks were unsafe. And an NBC network news magazine televised a demonstration that showed a GM truck blowing up.....Finally, in May 2003, 30 years after the first case was filed and seven years after the forced disclosure to the Center for Auto Safety, Judge Malloy, finding GM had no good cause for secrecy, ordered the information released: 297 separate cases settled for $495 million.

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