What would CARS be like without the civil justice system?
In the wake of Toyota’s sudden acceleration scandal, automobile safety is once again a hot-button issue. After internal documents showed Toyota knew about potential defects, hid them from regulators, and even bragged about saving money from limiting its recalls, Toyota received the largest fine ever levied against an auto manufacturer. After 50 deaths and 8.5 million recalled cars, this saga is yet another example of regulation as an incomplete safeguard and manufacturers that put profits over safety. Unfortunately, this scenario has been repeating itself for decades.
Several car manufacturers, including GM and Ford, designed defective gas tank placement, which resulted in fires and explosions even in minor collisions. GM could have fixed their gas tanks for $8.40 per car, but calculated that paying for 500 fatal accidents would cost only $2.40 per car.
Ford’s own engineers identified the problem with its “paddle-style” handles, which allowed the doors to accidentally open in collisions. But rather than fix the design, Ford covered up the problem until held accountable in court.
Tire manufacturers from Firestone to Goodyear tired to cover up problems with defective tires and have been held accountable in the courts. Firestone’s defective tires caused 271 deaths, and the resulting litigation brought tires and their manufacturers under increased scrutiny.
In the 1960s, court cases began highlighting the dangers of car design and the wrongdoing of manufacturers in designing cars that they knew to be unsafe. Since then the civil justice system has worked hand-in-hand with regulation to protect Americans, while spurring generations of safety innovations. Litigation will ultimately play a key role in identifying what went wrong with Toyota. These findings will aid regulators and legislators in protecting the American public in the future. By holding manufacturers accountable, the civil justice system will continue to spur safety innovations, as it has done for half a century.
Source: American Association for Justice (click here for the full report)