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Civil Justice System Spurs Safety Innovations

How safe is your car? Have you ever thought about it? Sure, we all consider safety when purchasing a vehicle and perhaps look them up on Consumer Reports and the Kelly Blue Book before buying. But, what if you didn’t know your car or truck wasn’t safe?

Young Brooke Melton – only 29 – tragically lost her life in a collision that could have potentially been avoided altogether. Her parents relentlessly exercised their right to justice by finding out what exactly happened to their daughter that day, and then, ultimately, helped to make all of us safer by taking on the makers of the vehicle – GM.

It turned out that a defect in her 2005 Chevrolet Cobalt possibly caused her accident that ulimately killed her. After pursuing legal counsel and hiring experts to investigate the accident, they discovered via the car’s “black box” that the ignition in Brooke’s car had switched from “on” to “accessory” seconds before the crash, shutting off power to her steering and brakes.

During depositions with General Motors, maker of the Cobalt, it was revealed that the company knew of the ignition defect as far back as 2004 and had even developed a partial remedy. But a “business decision” was made to cover up the problem rather than recall the affected vehicles. By the time the Meltons uncovered the truth and GM issued a recall for 2.6 million cars, the defect was blamed for at least 22 accidents and 13 deaths.

The bottom line: GM executives chose not to fix a defective ignition because it would cost $1 per car. (View a great recap of this story on CNN.)

How Can the Public Hold These Institutions Accountable?

With companies putting profit before safety and regulators dropping the ball on consumer safety, how can oridnary citizens who encounter similar tragedies take justice into their own hands? It’s simple.

The answer, as vividly illustrated by the Meltons and so many before them, is our constitutional right under the Seventh Amendment to hold accountable in a court of law those who have caused us harm. This power has resulted in a long list of revelations, followed by demands that manufacturers improve the safety of their products.

Many have done this and succeeded. Let’s look at some examples:

  • Manufacturing defects in cars, from Ford’s exploding gas tanks to Toyota’s unintended acceleration to Firestone’s separating tires, have spurred numerous safety innovations that are now standard in vehicles today.
  • Flammable pajamas were pulled off the market after Americans took action.
  • For years, Johnson & Johnson failed to disclose that Tylenol turns toxic and can destroy the liver when mixed with alcohol. Now warnings are put on its products.
  • A settlement in 2006 established strict standards for candy makers to protect children from lead exposure in candies imported from Mexico.
  • The Seventh Amendment helped prevent the death of more babies caused by dangerous crib designs.
  • Pacific Gas & Electric stopped dumping hexavalent chromium into the water and agreed to clean up the affected area in Hinkley, Calif.

Do Your Part

Clearly in all of the cases mentioned above the search for justice forced safety innovations. Let’s consider the importance of the civil justice system. We at Barrow Law Firm would like to encourage you to do your part and serve willingly and courageously as a juror when you are called upon as the courthouse is very powerful and can prevail.

And, if you ever find yourself in a situation requiring legal assistance, please don’t hesitate to contact us. We can help you discover the truth and bring justice in your case.