Today Powers Law Group achieved justice for a client who was injured in a car accident. Jeff Powers was victorious in a bench trial, receiving a judgment of more than twice what the insurance company had offered to pay. We never settle for less than what our clients truly deserve. The insurance company tried to limit the amount of money they had to pay to resolve this case. Powers Law Group represents all of their personal injury and workers compensation clients in this same fashion. Insurance companies know that we never settle for less than what our clients truly deserve.
GM to Pay $900M Over Ignition Switch Scandal; Cooper Criticizes Deal
General Motors has agreed to pay $900 million to resolve criminal charges for concealing a defective ignition switch linked to at least 169 deaths, federal prosecutors said Thursday in New York.
The agreement calls for two charges—wire fraud and scheming to conceal information from government regulators—to be dropped after three years if the automaker cooperates fully.
However, U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara did not rule out the possibility employees could still face charges.
See Related Article: GM Pact Doesn’t Mean Its Legal Woes Are in the Rear-View Mirror
“They let the public down. It’s as simple as that,” Bharara said. “To sum it up, they didn’t tell the truth in the best way that they should have—to the regulators, to the public—about this serious safety issue that risked life and limb.”
Also Thursday, GM announced it that it will spend $575 million to settle the bulk of the civil lawsuits filed over the scandal.
The twin agreements bring to more than $5.3 billion the amount GM has spent on a problem prosecutors say could have been dealt with at a cost of less than a dollar per car. Those expenses include government fines, compensation for victims and the recall and repair of the millions of affected vehicles.
The statement of facts to which the company agreed describes in scathing terms GM’s deceitful and dismissive approach to handling a problem that was evident even before the defective switch went into production in 2002.
The design of the ignition switch was changed by a GM engineer, without any notice, in 2002, even though the supplier said the switch didn’t meet GM’s specifications. That fact was uncovered in April 2013 during an investigation by Marietta attorney Lance Cooper, who was representing Ken and Beth Melton’s lawsuit in the 2010 death of their daughter, Brooke, a nurse. She died on her 29th birthday after her 2005 Chevrolet Cobalt went out of control and rolled off a highway, down a bank and into a creek.
On Thursday, Cooper issued a scathing response to the end of the GM criminal case.
“Today’s settlement announcement provides no consolation to the hundreds of families who were devastated by GM’s decade long coverup of the ignition switch defect,” Cooper said in a news release. “When individuals, through their reckless conduct, cause someone to die, they go to jail. When large corporations, such as GM, through their reckless conduct cause hundreds of people to die, they simply pay a fine, write it off as a tax loss, and move on.”
“Speaking on behalf of the families we represent, we had hoped that justice would be served in the criminal investigation of GM,” Cooper said. “Unfortunately, it’s the same old story—if you have enough power and money you can always buy your way out of truly being held accountable for your misdeeds.”
Cooper’s investigation discovered Brooke Melton’s car’s key was turned off, then later that the ignition switch was defective. The Meltons settled their case in 2013, then tried to give back the $5 million payment a year later when they discovered a GM engineer lied in a deposition saying he did not know about the defect. They refiled their lawsuit in 2014, adding allegations of fraud.
Cooper teamed up with Beasley, Allen, Crow, Methvin, Portis & Miles in Montgomery to deepen the investigation. But the Meltons settled again in March 2015 after more money was added to their deal from the fund controlled by GM’s mediator, Kenneth Feinberg.
Before the Meltons settled their suit, Cooper had expected their lawsuit to be the first ignition defect case to go to trial against GM. He said Wednesday he has now placed that hope on other cases he is investigating.
“We look forward to our first ignition switch trial against GM when a jury will have the opportunity to hold GM fully accountable for its reprehensible conduct,” Cooper said. He did not identify the case, and said he would make no further comments for the moment.
Beasley Allen founder Jere Beasley issued a statement saying GM was “getting off easy” on the criminal charges despite being fined nearly $1 billion. “In this country, we normally put criminals in jail, but corporations pay huge fines and keep on doing business,” he said. “I am afraid the public doesn’t fully realize that GM—a corporate entity—is guilty of a criminal offense, and because of the conduct of GM officers and employees, at least 124 innocent victims were killed. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration dropped the ball and GM intentionally covered up for a full decade a known safety defect.”
Consumer advocate Clarence Ditlow, executive director of the nonprofit Center for Automotive Safety, also bitterly criticized the settlement.
“GM killed over 100 people by knowingly putting a defective ignition switch into over 1 million vehicles,” Ditlow said. “Today, thanks to its lobbyists, GM officials walk off scot-free while its customers are 6 feet under.”
Bharara said he understands some victims’ families might be disappointed no individuals were arrested, but he added: “We apply the laws as we find them, not the way we wish they might be.” He also said GM was given credit for cooperating with the investigation, including sharing the results of its in-house probe.
With the settlements, GM is taking a big step toward moving past the scandal, which badly damaged its reputation but led to companywide safety reforms.
Later Thursday, GM chief executive Mary Barra appeared before employees in suburban Detroit and again apologized to the victims of crashes caused by the bad switch.
“We didn’t do our job,” she said. “We accept the penalties handed down today, because that’s what it means to be held accountable.”
As part of GM’s deal with prosecutors, an independent monitor will be appointed to review the automaker’s procedures for handling safety defects.
When GM employees, the media and some customers complained about the switch in 2004 and 2005, the company’s engineers left the switch alone, rejecting a cheap and simple improvement that would have significantly reduced the problem, court papers said.
Court papers said even though the dangers became plain in the spring of 2012, the company did not correct its earlier assurance that the switch posed no safety concern. Instead, Bharara wrote, it concealed the defect from regulators and the public “so that the company could buy time to package, present, explain and manage the issue.”
The wire fraud count pertained to the company’s assurances to customers over the Internet in 2012-13 that its used cars were safe.
Last year, GM recalled 2.6 million older small cars worldwide to replace the faulty switches. Those included the Chevrolet Cobalt and Saturn Ion.
The faulty switches can unexpectedly slip out of the “run” position to “off” or accessory. That shuts off the engine and disables power-assisted steering, power brakes and the air bags. Some cars ran off the road or collided with other vehicles.
Last year, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration slapped GM with a civil fine of $35 million for failing to notify the government of a safety-related defect within five days of learning about it.
Also last year, GM established a fund to compensate victims. Lawyers administering the fund accepted 124 death claims and 275 injury claims. Families of those who died will get at least $1 million. GM has set aside $625 million to compensate people who accept a settlement with the fund.
Texas attorney Bob Hilliard represented 1,385 plaintiffs with death or injury claims who decided not to seek compensation from the fund. On Thursday, GM said it has agreed to spend part of $575 million to settle those lawsuits, which include 45 deaths.
The money also will be used to settle a shareholder lawsuit that said GM’s actions reduced the value of its stock.
Even with the settlements, GM cannot yet close the books on the scandal. It still faces 454 death and injury cases that have yet to be settled. Six cases have been scheduled for trial, including one set to start in January.
Amid the scandal more than a year ago, GM fired 15 employees, including engineers and lawyers, for failing to act to resolve the switch problem.
The recalls led to other changes at GM. Barra appointed a new safety chief who reports directly to her and added 35 product safety investigators. The company changed its product development process to focus more on safety. And it started a program that encourages employees to speak up if they uncover a safety concern.
GM also reviewed a backlog of safety issues in 2014 and ordered a record 84 recalls covering more than 30 million vehicles, including 27 million in the U.S. So far this year, it has issued 33 recalls covering 2.6 million cars and trucks.
The deal with GM comes a year and a half after Toyota agreed to a $1.2 billion penalty from the Justice Department for withholding information about deadly unintended acceleration in its vehicles.
A Cartersville couple — on a furlough from mission work in Italy — were on their way home when a tractor-trailer crashed into them Thursday night.
Kyra Karr, 30, died at the scene of the wreck. Her two young children and husband were injured when the tractor-trailer pinned their pickup truck against a guard rail, trapping the family inside, according to police in Bartow County.
The children, ages 2 and 4, were both in stable condition Friday at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta at Scottish Rite. Reid Karr was in stable condition at WellStar Kennestone Hospital, according to police.
Kyra Karr was a graduate of the University of Georgia and grew up attending Tabernacle Baptist Church in Cartersville, according to IMB, the International Mission Board. The family, appointed as Southern Baptist missionaries in 2009, were about to start their third term of service in Italy after a brief assignment in the United States, according to IMB.
Investigators believe the tractor-trailer driver, identified Friday as Ivan Delgado, was outside of his vehicle conducting a safety inspection when it started to roll, Emerson police told Channel 2 Action News.
Delgado reportedly parked his tractor-trailer at a chemical plant in the 300 block of Joe Frank Harris Parkway or Highway 41 in Emerson — a town near Cartersville. Employees told police the man was acting erratic before the incident happened. Police said Delgado was under the influence of a mind-altering substance at the time of the wreck.
Continue reading article from AJC.com:
Insight by Atty. Jeff Powers:
This tragic accident that took the life of a young mother, leaving her two children and husband injured also, was completely preventable. The gross negligence of the out-of-state driver in not deploying his parking brake while parked on a hill, caused the truck to careen down the roadway and into the path of this innocent family. The truck driver, according to witnesses was behaving very erratically before the accident occurred. It is likely that he was under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol. There need to be serious consequences, not only for the drivers whose recklessness causes accidents such as these, but also for the transport companies who avoid their responsibility for liability in these accidents by hiring drivers who are “independent contractors.” No amount of money will make up for the loss of this wife and mother to her family, however, the only way big trucking companies are going to improve their hiring and safety practices is by punishing them monetarily. Sadly, money is the primary motivator for these big transport companies. We, at Powers Law Group, have helped many victims of tractor-trailer accidents. These cases are highly complex and require an attorney who is familiar with all angles of the law regarding tractor-trailer accident litigation. If you have been injured in a tractor-trailer accident, call Powers Law Group for a free consultation today.
Congratulations to Jeff Powers and Adam Beecher for receiving a $375,000 jury verdict in Bibb Superior this afternoon!The plaintiff was a 69 year old man who had a “train wreck” of a back (2 prior surgeries) and was on disability when the 2011 wreck occurred. This information was presented to the jury at the start by Powers and Beecher, and they let every medical record go into evidence.The plaintiff’s vehicle was hit by a sales-rep for Source Care Management, when she ran a stop sign in Dublin while checking her navigation system.The medical costs were around $170,000 (including the cost of a lumbar discectomy and fusion), and there were no lost wages.The final offer at mediation was $75,000. Wallace Miller (representing Source Care) and Bill Shelton (for the driver) defended the case, which was before Judge Ennis.
The defense argued the injury was preexisting and that the defendants were not responsible for surgery due to the condition of his back.
In closings, Jeff used a timeline to display the fact that their client had no treatment for back issues in the 10 years before the 2011 wreck, and deposition clips were played of the plaintiff’s treating physician and of the defense’s expert physician, both of which were particularly compelling.
It was obvious to anyone in the courtroom that Adam and Jeff believed in their client, and their preparation and presentation was outstanding. I look forward to hearing more of the details from them both. I understand it was a battle up to the very end!
INSIGHTS BY ATTY. JEFF POWERS
Mr. Curtis Isaac was one of 12 children born to two hardworking parents who were sharecroppers in Dublin, Ga. He dropped out of the 8th grade to help his parents work on the land they lived on which consisted of picking cotton, soybeans and tobacco crops. After several years of living with his family he went to work in Detroit for Ford Motor Co and then came back to Dublin to work for a construction company. In 1967, he began working for Roche Farm & Garden doing heavy manual labor. He worked there for 32 years until severe lower back pain at L4/5 levels forced him to quit. He filed a worker’s compensation case against his employer for a fictional date of injury. He retired from Roche in 1999 and had a microdiscectomy and then another in 2001 at the same level. The SSA determined him disabled because of his back problems in 1999. Having worked his whole life, he didn’t like not working so he worked odd jobs with his brother-in-law, such as raking pinestraw, cutting grass. He also worked as a helper for his brother-in-law’s masonry business. Mr. Isaac never earned much at these odd jobs, and we didn’t ask for any lost wages since he was getting SSDI.
On September 12, 2011 Mr. Isaac was injured in a car accident. At the time of the accident, he was 65 yrs old, driving to see a friend in downtown Dublin. The defendant was an employee of Source Care who was driving her personal car. She was traveling to Hawkinsville and was looking at her GPS. She didn’t see the stop sign and ran into Mr. Isaac. They admitted fault for causing the wreck. The driver was very nice and made a great impression. I crossed her for about 3 minutes.
The paramedics who treated Mr. Isaac at the accident scene and took him to the hospital noted that he complained of back pain that day. After the wreck, most of the treatment Mr. Isaac had was for his neck and shoulders. It was 7 months later when his lower back began hurting again. That’s when Dr. Pollydore ordered a lumbar MRI. Defense attorney used a fax cover sheet from Dr. Stefanis’ office that said patient was not surgical 3 months after wreck. Dr. Stefanis, however, had never examined Mr. Isaac. Pollydore recommended injections and Curtis returned to Dublin to see Dr. Hardmann, who began giving him these 1 yr after the wreck. This went on for another year and then Hardmann sent him to Dr. Holliday in Feb. 2014 when he was finally worked up surgically. In April 2014 he had a fusion at L4/5 which was the same level that was operated on in 1999 and 2001. We agreed to tender all the medical records to the jury.
Judge Ennis allowed the evidence of him being on SSDI because Dr. Holliday testified he suffered a 23% impairment from the fusion at L4/5. I told the jury in voir dire, opening, and closing that Mr. Isaac was on disability, but that he didn’t deserve this “sentence of pain/surgery given to him by the Defendants.” Dr. Holliday did a great job causally linking the surgery to the wreck, but under cross exam he began to criticize President Obama. We filed a MIL to keep out his comments but somehow the statement, “If you don’t work, you don’t eat and I don’t agree with anything Pres. Obama does….” came out during trial. In his closing, the defense counsel reminded the jury of this. He said, ” which doctor did you like better – Gorum or Holliday? And why was Dr. Holliday so ornery during the deposition? You heard those comments he made about President Obama.” I said that it doesn’t matter who the doctor votes for for President – that’s what is great about our country – we can vote for anyone we want. You are here to decide the harm done to Mr. Isaac, not what opinion a doctor has of the President or his policies.
We had a pretrial conference and there was some preliminary discussion that we were going to be prevented from telling jury she was working when the wreck happened. Fortunately, after filing a brief in response to the Defendant’s motion in limine, the Court went our way and allowed the testimony.
Defendants hired Dr. Michael Gorum in December 2014, who testified that he agreed surgery was necessary but the reason he had it was due to DDD and not trauma. He said our client had pain from wreck but his foot drop and need for surgery was anatomically caused by a “glacial change in his back from years of hard work, (cigarette smoking) and him being overweight.” They then redeposed him one week before trial to show him the films from 2001 which the doctor said “it was the biggest herniation in Mr. Isaac’s back that he’s seen in 25 yrs of being a neurosurgeon.” Gorum also said that his vertebrae was bone on bone and there were osteophytes growing in his spine which is why Dr. Holliday operated.
Defendants argued that this was a very complicated medical case with a bunch of long words and confusing testimony. I said it is not complicated. He was not treating for back pain for 10 years after he had the second microdiscectomy until they crashed into him. If was in such dire straights where are the medical records showing that his back hurt? People go to the doctor if they are in pain. They don’t go get their DDD checked if it is asymptomatic. People go see their doctor if it’s a routine physical, an OB GYN appt, or the dentist.
We are so humbled by and appreciative of your nice comments. I have known Mr. Isaac for over 14 years and it was a true honor to represent such a wonderful and deserving person. We mediated the case with Tommy Greer in November and, after many hours, it went nowhere. It seemed we were mediating two different cases. Adam Beecher did an incredible job with doing a lot of the work and helping me prepare. He did a great job of the client’s direct and redirect of Curtis and the character witness. We interviewed more character witnesses but they were not very strong. I am grateful for advice and help from Jarome Gautreaux, Rick Sizemore, Laura Hinson, and finally my neighbor, Charlie Cork who assisted us with the motion in limine.
There has been a recent trend for people to stay connected through a growing number of great innovations that include everything from mobile phones to online social networks. Unfortunately, this has also led to several tragedies. Motorists distracted when texting and driving are becoming increasingly more responsible for highway accidents. With this in mind, several years ago the state of Georgia passed legislation banning the practice to help reduce roadway deaths and injury.
Latest statistics for Georgia indicate there were approximately 4000 motor vehicle crashes last year directly attributed to distracted drivers. Driving a vehicle and texting is an enormous distraction. The motorist must take their eyes off the road and at least one hand off the wheel. This significantly increases the odds of an accident occurring and puts fellow motorists and innocent bystanders at risk. If you are a victim of a distracted driver it’s imperative to seek out the services of an attorney that specializes in personal injury. A qualified law firm can handle everything from personal liability cases to workplace injuries in Macon GA.
Workers compensation in Macon GA legal representatives have extensive experience dealing with distracted driving accidents and negligent injury claims. When you have a competent and aggressive personal injury and workers compensation lawyer on your side, you can rest assured they will take any legal action necessary to obtain compensation that covers economic and other damages. Many studies have shown that texting while driving can cause as much impairment as a legally intoxicated motorist.
Texting drivers that cause accidents leading to injuries and other losses should be held legally responsible for pain and suffering. A personal injury and workers compensation lawyer stands up for those who become injured in Georgia because of reckless and negligent behavior. The legal definition of texting while driving is anyone that is sending, writing, reading or receiving text messages on a mobile device during the operation of a motor vehicle. It is unquestionably one of the most dangerous forms of distracted driving that people engage in.
Whether you are seriously hurt due to the actions of a distracted driver or suffer workplace injuries in Macon GA, your first step should be contacting a skilled personal injury lawyer. You might be entitled to receive compensation for lost income, medical expenses and property damage. There are specific laws that allow workplace and roadway injury victims to receive accident and workers compensation in Macon GA. Therefore, make certain your legal rights are well protected in these situations.
When you have been in a serious car accident that involved injuries and damages to your vehicle, the last thing that you need is to fight with the insurance company. The stakes may be high with large medical expenses and even permanent injury. In such cases it’s usually a foregone conclusion that a car accident lawyer can help you. A skilled legal expert can help you deal with the laws, medical expenses and safeguard your rights.
But sometimes it may make sense to hire a lawyer even for accidents involving minor injuries. For instance, if the out of pocket claims that your insurance will not cover exceeds an amount that you’re comfortable handling on your own, you should call a lawyer. You may be able to handle claims of $2000 or $3000 yourself, but any claim as large as $10,000 or more may need the skill of a lawyer experienced in dealing with such cases.
If you’re settling out of court or in a small claims court, then you may be able to handle the proceedings yourself. But if your case goes to court, then you may need a lawyer who knows how to try a case.
Whether the fault is yours or that of the other party involved in the accident, if you cannot prove it, you recover nothing. If the fight goes to court, then a lawyer can help you deal with the rules of evidence and procedure.
Another reason many people hire a car accident lawyer after a wreck is because they want to save time. Learning about routine cases and then presenting your claim can take dozens of hours. That is the kind of time many people do not have, and they choose to hire a lawyer as quickly as possible. A lawyer’s experience gets the job done quicker and without hassle.
Clients frequently ask me how much automobile insurance they should have? Having full coverage means different things to different people. Whether you chose to buy towing and rental car reimbursement should not be as important as having sufficient UM (underinsured motorist or med pay coverage). Having adequate UM coverage indicates that you are concerned about protecting the people in your car as well as yourself. Unfortunately, the time to look over your insurance policy usually happens after the accident when its too late to increase the coverage one should really carry. Each person should regularly look at their own policy and make sure that they are adequately insured in case of an accident. By the time they call Powers Law Group, the client is probably not at fault for causing the accident, but in need of a trial lawyer. This is when we can help you make the right decisions about handling your case.
[box type=”info”] Car Insurance Laws in Georgia[/box]
- First, the State of Georgia only requires one who gets a car-tag to have the minimum liability insurance coverage of $25,000. This coverage pays when a vehicle owner is at fault and that driver is responsible for the harm they caused to the another motorist, pedestrian, passenger in a car or bicyclist. Remember this insurance coverage does not pay for medical treatment for the at-fault driver. A driver in Georgia must carry this insurance on their car or they cannot get a license plate or renew that tag at their local DMV office.
- Second, if you only buy the bare minimum insurance you can also get a Underinsured or Uninsured insurance policy for the same limits of $25,000 which protects “you or the people in your car” when your car is in an accident. If you want to have more UM insurance, you need to increase your liability insurance coverage. This is what we recommend you do right now.
- Third, you should also have medical payment insurance coverage on your OWN insurance policy. This is because if you and your passengers are injured in an accident, your “med pay” insurance pays those persons medical bills directly to the providers. Many people wrongly assume that if they are in a car wreck, the other person’s insurance will pay their medical bills. This is not the law nor is it the duty of the at-fault party’s insurance company. Questions of how the accident happened, who is at fault and is there anyone else to blame (i.e. an unknown motorist may have contributed to the accident) may have to be answered. The bottom line is that if you get medical treatment, you owe that provider or hospital for services rendered. It’s like eating in a restaurant, “if you ordered it, you bought it,” and must therefore pay for what you ordered.
- Fourth, everyone should buy as much UM insurance as they can afford. For example, a recent case we handled at Powers Law Group, was when our client was hit from the rear in his car by a driver who had $25,000 in liability insurance. Our client had $100,000 in UM insurance but it was the traditional UM coverage and not added – on which would have given him a total possible recovery of $25,000 from the liability insurer and only $75,000 in coverage from his own policy. Our client was taken to a hospital where he was examined and then treated for several weeks at a chiropractor and then, eventually, a neurosurgeon operated on his back. His medical bills were in excess of $100,000 and, thankfully, were paid by his wife’s own group health insurance. The health insurer had a subrogation right (they could get their $$$ back) in our recovery because that is what the contract between the policy holder required our client do if he was ever in an accident.We were successful in obtaining the full policy limits from the liability insurer ($25,000) and our client’s own UM ($75,000 coverage). We then had to help the client negotiate his health insurance lien to put as much of the recovery in the client’s hands. Had the client had more in UM insurance, he most certainly would have recovered more from the settlement of his case. The difference in the client having more UM insurance was less than $100 for another $150,000 in coverage. That’s why, at Powers Law Group, we encourage our clients to periodically review their auto insurance policies and make sure they are fully insured. If you can afford it, ask your insurance agent to give you a quote on an Umbrella Insurance policy. This policy can be tied to your homeowners insurance and your cars or trucks.
- Fifth, let’s examine another scenario: You are rear-ended in a car accident on I-75 southbound. Your airbags deployed and you have a brief loss of consciousness and perhaps short-term memory loss. Paramedics, law enforcement and emergency personnel arrive on the scene. You are bleeding from a part of your face and you cannot feel your feet and cannot walk. A decision is made to have you put on a board and transported to the closest hospital. At the hospital, you are seen by several nurses, physician assistants, an emergency room doctor, a neurologist and perhaps an orthopaedic or vascular surgeon. Medical personnel order CT scans, x-rays, maybe an MRI and a decision to operate is made as your closest relative gives consent for the invasive procedure. At this point, there is a good chance $30,000 in medical bills have already occurred. If you do not have medical insurance or medical pay insurance, who will pay your medical bills? Do you have enough UM insurance coverage to compensate you for your losses?
You need a personal injury trial lawyer and someone who can provide advice on what to do with having to pay these medical providers and seek follow up medical treatment. In summary, if you get the treatment, you have to pay the providers for the services rendered. Our firm represents people from all over Georgia in cases such as this.