ShareThis Page

The GM defects: A criminal matter

| Wednesday, March 26, 2014, 9:00 p.m.

The more that's known about General Motors' response — or lack thereof — to faulty ignition switches in some of its cars, the more basis there seems to be for criminal prosecution.

GM, the automaker saved by the American taxpayer, last month recalled 1.6 million 2003-07 Chevrolet Cobalts and other models whose ignition switches could shut off engines, disabling steering, brakes and airbags if bumped or weighed down by heavy keychains. Internal documents show GM dragged its feet for years regarding the problem, The New York Times reports.

GM engineers confirmed the ignition defect at a May 2009 meeting. Since then, 26 people have died in at least 23 crashes in models GM just got around to recalling. But GM ignored many complaints while forcing settlements that required public silence from at least two families suing over such fatalities.

The “new” post-bankruptcy GM isn't legally responsible for claims stemming from pre-July 2009 incidents — an obstacle to civil litigation that a proposed class-action lawsuit in California seeks to strike down. The Justice Department is examining whether the ignition defect was properly disclosed in GM's bankruptcy filings. But that shouldn't be the only criminal investigation of GM's handling of its ignition defect.

Full accountability and justice for victims requires prosecution, based on all available evidence, of all who are culpable — whether the facts show criminal fraud, criminal negligence or, yes, even disregard that rises to involuntary manslaughter.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.