GM CEO Mary Barra was recently called to Washington to answer to the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee for GM’s seemingly cover-up of a design defect in the ignition switch, which has currently been tied to over a dozen deaths. Video of her being questioned by Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill (D) has been making the rounds on the internet ever since:
There are several interesting things about this, not the least of which is the importance the Senator places on the role of the trial lawyer in uncovering both the underlying danger and the equally disconcerting cover-up at GM. Trial lawyers have spent much of the last several decades under siege for their purported filing of “frivolous lawsuits” and the perception that those lawsuits needlessly drive up the cost of products and services we all buy. Whether there is any truth to this tired trope is for another day. But what the story told in this video does make clear is how essential trial lawyers remain to protecting the safety and rights of consumers.
Consider that GM, perceived as a great American corporation and one finally rebounding after years of poor management, was not insulated from the overwhelming need in corporate America to prioritize their own profits over the safety and well-being of their customers. That’s not to say everyone involved at GM is a bad person (although I think we can safely say that anyone who actively decided not to alert the public about a deadly defect in an automobile has run afoul of most of our moral sensibilities) – it’s just to make the point that the corporations that make and sell the products we rely on do not work for us. They work for their shareholders. So notwithstanding whether a particular company or its employees are “good” or “bad,” centuries of history tell us they cannot be counted upon to take care of the safety of their customers.
We hope that government regulatory and safety agencies protect us for much - and they no doubt do. But when matters such as this fall through the cracks (or are actively concealed) it is trial lawyers who obtain justice for those who are harmed. And perhaps more importantly, it is the trial lawyers who – as McCaskill points out in her questioning – expend their own time and money attempting to unravel the truth about what these companies knew and when. The involvement of the U.S. Government, through the congress as well as its administrative agencies, has come about in the GM cases only because of the years of footwork done by this country’s trial lawyers. And the GM case is but an example of a scenario that has played itself out time and time again in the pharmaceutical industry, the automobile industry, the chemical industry and most others. Thankfully, most of us will never need to hire a trial lawyer. But we all benefit from the work they do each and every day in the form of safer drugs, automobiles, food and other products.
For over sixty years Spangenberg has been representing those injured by the negligence and fraud of corporations and working to protect the safety of those in the Cleveland community and around the country.