General Motors Recalls Spark Defective Product Concerns For Florida Residents

Much has been written recently about General Motors’ recall of millions of cars for serious safety defects in their ignition switches that have been linked to thirteen deaths. Making matters worse, it seems that GM delayed the recall for years.

Obviously, anyone who owns a car affected by the defective ignition switches should not drive the car until the necessary work is complete. Unfortunately there aren’t enough replacement switches available to fix all the defective cars on the road.

In the meantime, this is a good opportunity to talk about product liability. Product liability is a legal doctrine that compensate people injured by defective products. There are three kinds of product liability cases — defective design, defective manufacture, and failure to warn.

A defective design claim means that the product — though built correctly according to specifications — failed because of an error in the design and engineering of the product. Let’s use another defective car case as an example, one that has literally become the textbook example of how not to design a car — the Ford Pinto.

Ford needed a compact economy car, and rushed the Pinto onto the market. To keep costs and weight down, they used a fuel tank made of thin sheet metal, and it ruptured easily in a collision. The ruptured tank tended to spill fuel, and the fuel would trigger an explosion. The Pinto wasn’t broken — it did what it was designed to do under the circumstances. Unintentional, yes, but still the designed result, even though the car may have been built perfectly to specifications.

A manufacturing defect case, however, means that the product may have been designed properly, but an error in the manufacture caused the defect that caused the injury. Unlike a defective design case — where thousands of identical products share the defect — manufacturing defects are necessarily singular. Imagine a child’s swing set, but with a chain that was improperly assembled; a vacuum cleaner with internal wiring that was not properly insulated. Every bit as dangerous, on a smaller scale.

Lastly, the failure to warn case alleges that a potential danger was so obvious that the manufacturer should have warned the consumer to take precautions. Wear a helmet, Drink responsibly, Wear a safety belt, and Caution: Hot coffee are all examples of consumer safety warnings, and it is quite possible that each of these came about in response to an injury somewhere.

It is unclear at this stage whether the GM recall will spurn a wave of lawsuits. However, caution should be the driving consideration right now. Don’t drive an affected car until the defective part has been replaced. If you have been injured in an accident in the Panama City, Florida area while driving one of the recalled cars, call the experienced defective product lawyers at Syfrett, Dykes & Furr.


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