In February, General Motors initiated a massive recall of some 2.6 million vehicles that had faulty ignition switches. Now, a few months later, GM is facing a lot of trouble on many different fronts, including civil, public relations, and now, possibly, criminal. In the wake of the tragedies surrounding GM’s defective ignition switches, families are demanding that prosecutors take action. “The only way the public is going to be protected from this negligence by companies is if there will ultimately be prison sentences,” said Leo Rudy, whose daughter Kelly was killed in 2010.
Rudy and the other family members may not be alone in their opinion. In early April, in Washington, D.C., GM CEO Mary Barra was on the hot seat. Lawmakers say they have evidence that a company employee tried to cover up the ignition switch problem back in 2006. Senator Kelly Ayotte from New Hampshire said, “I don’t see this as anything but criminal,” and Senator Clair McCaskill from Missouri accused GM of a cover-up, according to the Concord Monitor.
However, criminal charges against individuals that would result in prison sentences may be an uphill battle. Obtaining proof that they did something wrong may be difficult to come by. In fact, according to legal experts, it’s easier to prove wrongdoing by a corporation than individuals. To family members who lost someone due to the faulty ignition switches, the matter can seem very black and white. Someone did something wrong, which resulted in an innocent’s death, and now the wrongdoer should be punished. It seems very simple, but proof has to be obtained about who the wrongdoer was and if he or she intentionally made false statements.
According to the article, GM did admit that in 2004 and 2005 engineers put forth proposals to fix the switches in some cars; however, those fixes were never implemented. Documents have been produced that show GM might have been trying to hide something. A head engineer signed off on an ignition switch replacement but with the same part number. Sen. McCaskill said, “There is no reason to keep the same part number unless you’re trying to hide the fact that you’ve got a defective switch out there that in fact ended up killing a number of people on our highways.”
Up until this point, no one from GM has been fired in regard to the faulty ignition switches.