Executives with General Motors Corporation knew of the serious fuel tank defects in their Chevy Malibu vehicles, yet failed to implement the safety measures necessary to protect thousands of people on the road. Instead of putting public safety first, this automaker consciously chose to manufacture a product they knew could kill people. The Anderson family was one of those tragic enough to suffer the consequences of GM’s corporate greed.
In 1993, Patricia Anderson was driving her and her four children, aged six to fifteen, home from church on Christmas Eve in their Chevy Malibu. The Anderson’s vehicle was struck from behind while they were stopped at a red light. The rear vehicle’s front bumper was forced under the Anderson’s vehicle, puncturing its fuel tank in a number of places.
Tragically, the fuel leaking from the compromised tank ignited and set the car ablaze with a force equal to 108 sticks of dynamite. The entire Anderson family suffered serious and debilitating burns in this fuel-fed auto fire. Three of the four small children suffered burns covering more than 60 percent of their bodies.
These injuries were entirely preventable. For decades, General Motors knew about the threat posed by the fuel tank placement in the Chevy Malibu. They knew this risk made the car unreasonably dangerous. They knew of the high risk of the gas tank exploding in a rear-impact collision. Yet, the company did nothing to protect innocent people from this life-threatening risk. Instead, they chose corporate profit over public safety.
According to an internal memo from General Motors, the company determined each death caused by fuel tank fires in the Malibu would cost $2.40 per car, based on their assessment that a person’s life is worth $200,000. The company put a value on human life to justify allowing a serious safety risk to remain in thousands of vehicles. Furthermore, the company discovered that to fix the auto defect, the cost would total $8.59 per vehicle. Executives then made a grave decision: they decided to forego the safety improvements in the name of company profit.
In 1999, General Motors was ordered to provide compensation to their Anderson family for their tremendous losses and suffering. The jury found that the company had intentionally endangered the lives of their customers in trying to cut costs and increase revenue.
In March 2006, the Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing on product safety, particularly within the auto industry. They used the Chevy Malibu atrocity as a glaring example of “egregious corporate misconduct.”
If you or a loved one has suffered a serious injury in an accident for which another party may be responsible, contacting a qualified attorney can help in your quest to seek compensation for your losses and suffering.