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G.M. lawsuit may lead courts to overrule attorney/client privileges

Posted on Wednesday, July 15th, 2015   

In addition to a host of lawsuits revolving around ignition defects in G.M. vehicles, last week, plaintiffs asked the Manhattan Federal District Court to rule that G.M. and its outside attorneys covered up the defect, an act that may be considered criminal or fraudulent.

This request is made all the more ambitious by the fact that a ruling in favor of the plaintiffs could result in judges overruling the attorney-client privilege that keeps communication regarding a case confidential. According to the crime fraud exception, courts can require the disclosure of not only confidential communication, but also any documents, called work product, that were prepared by the attorneys if the client asked for or was given advice on how to engage in a crime or fraud now or in the future.

As a recent New York Times article points out, G.M. now faces a difficult situation, as the result of its pending settlement with federal prosecutors will have an effect on whether the attorney-client privilege is negated. A guilty plea could support the plaintiffs’ accusation that conversations with G.M.’s attorneys, King & Spalding, were a part of covering up the faulty ignition switch. Likewise, a deferred-prosecution agreement wherein G.M. would pay a major fine to avoid being forced to plead guilty could still involve G.M. admitting to criminal conduct. Both options could help the plaintiffs’ case against G.M. and contribute to a court decision requiring the company and King & Spalding to produce details of their communications.

Fires lead GM to recall nearly 200,000 Hummers

Posted on Friday, July 10th, 2015   

A malfunction in the heating and cooling system of Hummer sport utility vehicles has led General Motors to recall around 196,000 of the vehicles; specifically the 2006-2010 Hummer H3 and the 2009-2010 H3T. The automaker announced the recall on Wednesday, saying that at least two Hummers were destroyed in fires caused by the electrical issue. While three people suffered burns from the fires, there have been no reported casualties.

These two fires are not isolated incidents. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) began receiving complaints regarding fires in the dashboard back in 2008, and Hummer drivers have lodged over twenty complaints about this issue. Additionally, Hummer representatives said that there have been 42 reported fires overall.

After an internal audit conducted this past June, the Transportation Department concluded that the NHTSA moved too slowly in completing investigations regarding consumer complaints. Safety agency administrator Mark R. Rosekind blamed the agency’s lack of resources for this failure when he appeared before a congressional subcommittee last month. It has been pointed out that Rosekind’s explanation is in direct opposition to his predecessors’ statements that the agency was satisfactorily funded.

Urgent recall issued for some Fiat Chrysler vehicles

Posted on Tuesday, June 30th, 2015   

About 65 Jeep Grand Cherokee and Dodge Durango vehicles are being recalled due to a faulty suspension component. In a rare move, Fiat Chrysler has told the owners of affected 2015 models to stop driving these cars immediately. The urgency of the recall is unusual, spurring the company to specifically call each of the car owners in order to warn of the potentially faulty part. Owners of affected vehicles will have vehicles inspected at their homes.

The recall centers around a suspension component that has the capacity to fail and subsequently cause rear-end instability and a possible reduction in braking power. This recall comes in the wake of other litigation for Fiat Chrysler. The company is scheduled for a hearing with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration on July 2nd to determine if Fiat Chrysler failed to address safety defects in 10 million vehicles in an appropriate amount of time.

Several thousand other Jeep Grand Cherokees and Dodge Durangos need to be inspected for the malfunction. These cars, however, are on dealer lots and not in the possession of the public. There are currently no reports of injuries or accidents associated with the recalled vehicles.

Honda announces more Civic and Accord recalls

Posted on Wednesday, June 17th, 2015   

On Monday, the Honda Motor Company announced a recall of all 2001 to 2005 Civic sedans and 2003 to 2007 Accord sedans, amounting to 1.39 million vehicles. This latest recall addresses faulty front passenger-side airbags produced by the Takata Corporation of Japan, but Honda has already recalled their Civic and Accord sedans for front driver-side airbags. As a result of the previous recalls, this newest announcement does not affect the total number of Honda vehicles recalled, which remains at 6.3 million.

Previously, a regional recall was issued for front passenger-side airbags in these vehicles that were driven in high-humidity states. In their Monday announcement, Honda officials widen the recall to include all of these sedans in the United States.

It has been reported and observed that some Takata airbags open with excessive force, which sends shrapnel out into the vehicle, injuring passengers. Takata officials, as well as United States safety officials, have named extended exposure to humidity as a major factor in the defective airbag deployment.

Six deaths in the United States have occurred in vehicles equipped with Takata airbags. A New York Times article reported that Honda had corrected the issue in 1.99 million vehicles as of last week by replacing inflators; however, the total number of faulty inflators was not available. Honda dealerships have been replacing 50,000 inflators per week, and representatives anticipate an increase in this rate as the recall notice reaches more and more Honda drivers.

Confirmed deaths from faulty GM ignition switches reaches 50

Posted on Wednesday, January 28th, 2015   

As the January 31 deadline for submitting claims approaches, confirmed deaths due to faulty ignitions in GM vehicles has reached 50.

According to Kenny Feinberg, who handles GM’s recall payments, there have been a total of 338 deaths claims filed from August to January 23.

Through September, GM has recalled 34 million vehicles, and has spent $2.7 billion on repairs, loaner cars, and various other related expenses. GM said it is reserving roughly $600 million to pay for accident claims.

According to a lawyer paid by GM, Anton Valukas, for the last decade, GM hasn’t quickly responded to customer complaints and has disobeyed required protocol by not alerting the public when it replaced faulty ignition switches and changed part numbers.

If you or someone you love has been injured in a car accident caused by a defective vehicle or vehicle part, let the Tennessee auto defect lawyers at Pohl & Berk, LLP, help you understand the full range of legal options available to you. Call us today at 615-277-2765 to learn more about how we can help.

Fire hazard prompted Volkswagen recall of 38,000 cars

Posted on Monday, January 19th, 2015   

The Volkswagen Group of America, the American branch of the world’s third-largest automaker, recently announced a recall of 38,000 vehicles due to the risk that a fuel leak in the engine may lead to fires, WIVB 4 reported on December 31.

This is a preemptive recall, as Volkswagen claimed it has yet to receive a report of injury or accident related to this issue.

Included in the recall are vehicles from the 2014 to 2015 model years, such as the Volkswagen Beetle, Jetta, and Passat. The 2015 models of the Golf and the GTI are also covered in the recall.

Incurring injury or being traumatized in a personal injury accident in Tennessee can result in serious injuries. When an accident is the result of an automaker’s negligent manufacturing, however, you may pursue financial compensation against the liable company. If you have experienced an accident due to the negligence of someone else, the attorneys of Pohl & Berk, LLP, may offer critical representation. Call our offices at 615-277-2765 today.

BMW extends Takata airbag recall nationwide

Posted on Tuesday, December 30th, 2014   

BMW joined other automakers in extending their recall of vehicles with Takata airbags nationwide, the New York Times reported on December 22.

This move, encouraged by federal regulators, places BMW among other auto manufacturers that have done the same, including Honda, Ford, Chrysler, and Mazda. Although the recall was previously limited to particularly humid areas such as Florida, the NHTSA applied pressure to companies to extend the recalls nationwide.  The recall will include a free replacement of driver-side airbags in the 140,000 affected vehicles, which are BMW 3 Series cars manufactured between January 2004 and August 2006.

The Takata airbags may rupture under pressure, spraying small metal pieces throughout the vehicle in an accident. This dangerous defect has resulted in five deaths and numerous reported injuries.

If you have been injured by a faulty vehicle, the Tennessee auto defect attorneys of Pohl & Berk, LLP, can help you through the process of pursuing damages from the responsible automaker. Call our offices at 615-277-2765 today to learn about your legal options.

New report highlights Takata’s ongoing struggle with airbag compound

Posted on Thursday, December 11th, 2014   

While Takata is still maintaining that they have not identified the source of their airbag failures, a new report by The New York Times reveals that the company has expressed concerns over their use of ammonium nitrate as a propellant since the mid-‘90s.

The current concerns regarding Takata airbags center around their propensity to inflate with too much force and release shrapnel when deployed. This problem has been associated with five deaths and many more injuries. Critics have recently pointed a finger at ammonium nitrate as the source of the problem; Takata refutes this claim.

However, patent applications from the mid-‘90s reveal that Takata was aware of the potential problems with using ammonium nitrate to inflate their airbags. In the newly released documents, Takata previously acknowledged that the compound “was so vulnerable to temperature changes that its casing, under excessive pressure, ‘might even blow up.’” Takata has since worked to stabilize the compound by adding potassium to the propellant. They introduced the airbags with ammonium nitrate to the market in 2001, but additional patent applications show that they continued to propose more stabilizing measures in the following years, suggesting that Takata may have known the propellant was not yet completely safe, even as they continued to manufacture the product.

In a congressional hearing last week, Takata’s chief quality officer said, “The ammonium nitrate that we are using, it’s safe and stable.” Takata is continuing to use ammonium nitrate in the replacement airbags for recalled vehicles.

The NHTSA demands Takata’s compliance

Posted on Thursday, December 4th, 2014   

In the wake of a federal investigation, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) warned Takata that they would take serious action against the air bag manufacturer if they did not expand their recall, according to The New York Times.

The latest action by the NHTSA highlights the ongoing struggle between safety regulators and Takata. The air bag manufacturer has issued a recall to areas within the United States that have high heat and humidity, as the majority of reported incidents have occurred in these areas. However, reports of Takata’s air bags exploding outside of these regions has prompted the NHTSA to put more pressure on Takata and individual manufacturers to expand their recall to cover the entire nation.

While Honda has voluntarily expanded their recall, Takata is remaining resistant. The NHTSA said that they will likely force a recall and could impose a fine of $7,000 per violation if Takata does not take action within the week.

GM allegedly pressured supplier to continue to manufacture faulty ignition switch

Posted on Tuesday, December 2nd, 2014   

A recently released email suggests that GM urged their supplier, Delphi, to continue to produce ignition switches for their vehicles even after they continued to fail safety testing, according to a report in the New York Times on November 21.

The email was entered as evidence in the multidistrict lawsuit filed against GM in New York. The ignition switch has been identified as the cause of 33 deaths and many more injuries in crashes involving Chevy Cobalts and Saturn Ions in the early 2000s. Simply bumping the ignition has been found to cause the vehicles to stall, but the recent email also revealed that deficient levels of electrical current may have also contributed to the problem. When reports of accidents began stacking up, Raymond DeGiorgio, the GM engineer who approved the switch design in 2001, demanded more stringent safety testing from Delphi.

However, a 2005 email from Thomas Svoboda, the customer specialist at Delphi assigned to the case, accuses DeGiorgio of ordering the tests only to “cover his butt,” knowing that it would fail. Svoboda also expresses frustration with Delphi, saying that they should have refused business with GM, one of their largest accounts, instead of being bullied into “spending hundreds or thousands of hours trying to make it work” even though both sides knew the switch “was never able to cut it.”

DeGiorgio denies these allegations, saying, “I did my job the best I could.”

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