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Litigation Pushes Ski Boat Manufacturers to Safer Designs – Safety Research & Strategies Inc.

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The Cooper Firm In The News

Litigation Pushes Ski Boat Manufacturers to Safer Designs

By Sean Kane, Safety Research & Strategies Inc.

3 years ago a young boy lost his life while enjoying a day on the lake with his family. 7-year-old Ryan Batchelder, along with 5 other members of his family were out on Lake Rabun when their boat, a Malibu Bowrider manufactured by Malibu Boats, dipped under its own wake and took on water, tossing Ryan and another family member overboard.  To correct the flooding issue, the driver put the boat in reverse. Still in the water, Ryan became entangled with the propeller and died from drowning and loss of blood. It’s a tragic story. A story we believe should have never happened if the Malibu Bowrider had been properly designed and tested.

Sean Kane with Safety Research & Strategies Inc. has more details about this potential design flaw. Read the full investigative story here.

The Cooper Firm is currently representing the Batchelder family to investigate and identify this potential product defect. In addition to seeking justice for their son Ryan, they hope to save more families from experiencing this type of tragedy.

The Cooper Firm Settles First-of-its-Kind Exploding Airbag Case for Confidential Amount

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Featured Case:

The Cooper Firm Settles First-of-its-Kind Exploding Airbag Case for Confidential Amount

In April, 2014, our client was driving a 2004 Kia Optima when another vehicle pulled in front of her, causing her to brake, lose control of her vehicle, and hit a wall head-on at low speed. The impact caused her driver’s side front airbag to explode, sending shrapnel all throughout the cabin of the vehicle, and into our client’s face and neck. One large piece of shrapnel—about the size of a nickel—lodged inside of our client’s neck and was first discovered at the hospital during emergency surgery. The explosion caused our client to suffer permanent scarring on her face and neck.

Our client sued the vehicle manufacturer (Kia Motors America), the manufacturer of the driver’s frontal airbag assembly (Delphi Automotive Systems, LLC), and the manufacturer of the inflator in that assembly (ARC Automotive, Inc.). Our investigation focused on the inflator as the cause of the explosion. Although there are many exploding airbag cases ongoing against Honda and Takata (the manufacturer of Honda’s airbag inflators), this is the first case of its kind against Kia, Delphi, or ARC. Based on the nature of the defect that we discovered, we expect there will be similar failures in the future.

The case settled after extensive examinations of the vehicle and the airbag assembly, but shortly before the Defendants’ responses were due to our initial discovery. The case is Chavez et al. v. Kia Motors Corporation et al., Civil Action No. 1:15-CV-00462, U.S. District Court, District of New Mexico.

Featured Case: Defective Tire/Severe Injuries

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Featured Case: Defective Tire/Severe Injuries

Our client was riding as a passenger in a vehicle that was involved in a single car accident in August 2011.  As the vehicle was driving on a major highway, one of its tires failed and separated, and the driver lost control. The vehicle then went off the road, struck a concrete median barrier, overturned in the emergency lane, and slid down the road on its top. As a result of the accident, our client sustained permanent and severe injuries.

Our client sued the tire manufacturer for designing and manufacturing a defective tire. The negligence of the tire manufacturer was a direct cause of our clients severe and life changing injuries and damages. We were able to settle the case on behalf of our client for a confidential amount.

Featured Case: Settlement in a Product Liability/Severe Injury Case

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Settlement in a Product Liability/Severe Injury Case

In September 2011 our client was riding as a front seat passenger on the Canton Road Connector in Cobb County, Georgia.  As the driver of the car came around a curve headed toward I-75, she drove slightly off the road into part of the emergency lane and ended up losing control of the car.   The vehicle left the roadway and overturned down an embankment.  Although fully belted in the car, our client was severely and permanently injured as a result of the accident.

Our client sued the vehicle manufacture for failure to equip the vehicle with its version of an electronic stability control or ESC, and for failing to give any warning that the vehicle did not have ESC or tell drivers about the dangers of driving a vehicle without ESC.  The ESC system uses speed sensors on each wheel, and the ABS and traction control systems, and vastly improves the car’s ability to brake individual wheels and make automatic steering corrections.  If the vehicle starts to travel in a direction that is different than the indicated steering wheel position then, the ESC will brake the appropriate wheel or wheels to help the driver maintain control of your car. Our client also sued the driver of the vehicle for allowing the vehicle to go off the main roadway. We were able to settle the case for a confidential amount on behalf of our client.

Note: ESC is a critical safety device which you should make sure is included in any car you buy.

Featured Case: $11.4 million settlement for a client who suffered a traumatic brain injury

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FEATURED CASE - The Cooper Firm

Featured Case: $11.4 million settlement for a client who suffered a traumatic brain injury

We recently settled a case for one of our clients for $11.4 million. Our client was catastrophically injured after falling at a residence in Cobb County due to the negligence of a corporation. Although he was not expected to survive the injuries sustained as a result of the fall, our client made a remarkable recovery. He continues to need assistance with his daily activities, however, and he will likely need this assistance for the remainder of his life. The settlement proceeds will provide for his long-term care needs. We are grateful that we were given the opportunity to make a difference for our client and his family.

The GM Hearings – Our Take

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GM Recall Lawyer - The Cooper Firm

 Sean Kane – Safety Research and Strategies Inc.

Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill opened the second day of hearings into the General Motors ignition switch defect and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s response to the issue by forging the strongest ties yet between the revelations that GM had hidden the defect for years and the civil litigation system.

McCaskill repeatedly (along with other U.S. senators and representatives yesterday and today) acknowledged the public debt to Lance Cooper, the Marietta, Georgia lawyer who represents the family of Brooke Melton, the 29-year-old woman who died in 2010 when the ignition module of her 2005 Cobalt slipped into the accessory position as she drove along Highway 92 in Paulding County, Ga. Melton’s Cobalt skidded into another vehicle, and Melton died of her injuries in the crash. Cooper’s dogged pursuit of GM materials through the discovery process showed that GM knew about the problems for years before launching a recall that only covered some of the affected models.

The ensuing avalanche of press led to a larger recall, and a government probe, and the April hearings.

But before the crush began, Cooper formally requested that NHTSA open a Timeliness Query, based on everything he had learned. And, it’s a good thing that McCaskill gave Cooper some credit, because to this day, NHTSA has not acknowledged his letter in any way. Not a phone call, not an email, not a letter. The bubble.

But, we guess some things just fall by the wayside when you are busy covering your backside. Acting NHTSA Administrator David Friedman kept defending NHTSA’s investigative process. He made it seem as though there was no way NHTSA could have made a different decision given the information it had at the time.

We don’t buy it. If their investigative processes are so damned good, why do they keep missing big defects? Why are Toyota owners still experiencing unintended accelerations not tied to floor mats, driver error, or sticky pedals?

GM CEO Mary Barra caught the worst of it. The committees were much better attended during her appearances, and just about everyone stepped forward to take a whack. Based on the hearings, it seems pretty clear that there will be a criminal investigation into GM’s failure to recall. And we were glad to hear that GM had retained compensation expert Kenneth Feinberg, and that some members of Congress now care deeply about compensation for defect victims whose claims were wiped away by GM’s 2009 bankruptcy.

Finally, we appreciate some Senators using the hearing to press Barra about GM’s support for the Raechel and Jacqueline Houck Safe Rental Car Act of 2013. Sponsored by Democratic Sens. Charles E. Schumer (D-NY), Barbara Boxer (D-CA), and Claire McCaskill (D-MO) and Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), and supported by the car rental companies, would prohibit car dealers from leasing, renting or loaning vehicles that are under a safety recall. The bill was filed in May and was unanimously passed by the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, but it has advanced no further, because dealers and manufacturers have blocked it. (See That GM Loaner May Not Be Safer)

The Safety Record was most interested in what NHTSA had to say. One prominent feature of Freidman’s testimony was repeated assertions that the reason NHTSA did not open an investigation into the Cobalt was because it was focusing on the airbag non-deployment issue, and the crashes were so complex that NHTSA’s seasoned investigators decided that it was more likely that the crash circumstances presented the system with a do-not-fire decision.

But there were actually two safety issues: sudden loss of power and airbag non-deployment. NHTSA knew about both – through the three Special Crash Investigations it commissioned on Cobalt airbag non-deployments and consumer complaints about power losses, among other data. NHTSA also had a significant data point that brought the two together: the 2005 and 2006 Technical Service Bulletins. That is a red flag. NHTSA’s seasoned investigators know full well that a TSB means that the automaker is already well-aware of the problem, and that automakers issue TSBs to avoid recalls, sometimes.

And why isn’t sudden loss of power considered a serious safety hazard?

And when asked for the document detailing NHTSA’s decision not to move forward with an ignition, Friedman conceded that they didn’t have it. Gee, NHTSA not keeping a record? We’ve never heard of that.

He did maintain that NHTSA was going to get better, more powerful software to help it find defects. But, wasn’t that supposed to be the purpose of Early Warning Reports? The system has been crafted with such broad categories, that it’s difficult to know what’s happening when claims are coded as “powertrain” for example.  But with more hearings in the works we’re hopeful.

Source: Sean Kane, “The Safety Record,” April 2, 2014.

NHTSA Announces a Timeliness Query Investigation Regarding GM’s Delayed Recall

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GM Recall Lawyer - The Cooper Firm

NHTSA announces investigation

On February 19, 2014, Lance Cooper submitted a Timeliness Query to the National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration (“NHTSA”) about General Motors’ prior injury disclosures to that agency about certain GM ignition switches.   On February 26, 2014, NHTSA announced that it was going to open an investigation.   Cooper and others have alleged that GM knew about the defective ignition switch in its vehicles in 2004 before it began selling the 2005 Chevrolet Cobalt, the car in which Cooper’s client, Brooke Melton, died in a crash after her ignition switch moved from RUN to ACC.   The recall for the GM vehicles was announced this February, nearly ten years after GM knew about the defect. Federal safety rules mandate that an automaker should notify NHTSA within five business days after the safety issue is identified.  It is alleged that GM underreported the number of deaths and/or injuries caused by the faulty ignition switches.

In response, NHTSA issued GM a Special Order as part of a Timeliness Query investigation. The NHTSA is requesting that GM provide a more detailed 573.6 section outlining the chronology of principle events. GM must respond to this Special Order by April 3, 2014. The very detailed Special Order as well as the Opening Resume can be found here. For more information regarding the NHTSA’s response, you can visit the Safety Research and Strategies Inc. Blog.

To view the Timeliness Query Request From Lance Cooper: Click Here.

To view the Opening Resume: Click Here.

To view the Special Order: Click Here. 

Melton Family Commends NHTSA Probe into GM Cobalt Recall

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PRESS RELEASE - The Cooper Firm Personal Injury Lawyer

News Release

Melton Family Commends NHTSA Probe into GM Cobalt Recall

February 27, 2014. 

TCF_logoplaceholderATLANTA, GEORGIA (February 27, 2014- Ken and Beth Melton, parents of a 29-year-old Georgia woman who died in crash linked to an ignition switch defect, praised the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration for opening a Timeliness Query into General Motors’ recall of the Cobalt and six other affected models.

The Melton family and their attorney, Lance Cooper of The Cooper Firm, located in Marietta, Ga., had petitioned NHTSA to investigate whether GM violated the law by waiting more than five days after discovering a defect to report it to the agency.

“We’re hopeful GM will tell the whole story,” Cooper said. “So far, GM has dribbled out information which, based on evidence in our case, shows that they are yet to be fully forthcoming with NHTSA about their knowledge and the scope of the defect. We’re also hopeful that out of this significant failure will come lasting changes to NHTSA’s investigation processes and enforcement activities.”

Ken and Beth Melton of Cobb County, Ga., said that they were relieved that the federal government is opening an investigation, and echoed that hope that GM will cooperate fully and disclose all the crashes, complaints and fatalities tied to the faulty ignition switch.

“In the beginning, it seems like the problem was totally ignored and denied,” says Ken Melton. “We’ve been pursuing action for going on four years, and we are just now getting responses back from the correct people. Our primary concern is: this is an inexpensive car that is popular with younger people. We hope the results of this investigation will keep other parents from going through what we went through.”

“I’m happy the investigation is being opened and hope all the information comes out, so that the public understands how dangerous this situation is,” adds Beth Melton. “The higher the number of deaths and injuries, the more seriously people will take this issue, and more people will be saved.”

Brooke Melton, 29, died in 2010 when the ignition module of her 2005 Cobalt slipped into the accessory position as she drove along Highway 92 in Paulding County, Ga. Melton’s Cobalt skidded into another vehicle, and Melton died of her injuries in the crash.  The incident was initially attributed to Melton losing control of her car on a rainy night.  An investigation showed that Melton’s vehicle was actually equipped with a defective ignition module that would travel out of the run position. These shifts occur while the vehicle is underway, creating an emergency situation that incidentally turns off the airbags at the same time it is cutting off the engine power, anti-lock brakes and power steering.

The Melton family sought Cooper’s counsel after facing a legal claim from the driver in the other vehicle. During the 18-month discovery phase of the trial, GM produced documents showing that GM engineers discovered the ignition switch problem during the Cobalt’s production stage, but took the vehicle market without remedying the problem. Instead, GM issued Technical Service Bulletins in October 2005 covering the 2005 Cobalt, and again in 2006, covering later model years of the Cobalt, the Pontiac G5, the 2006-2007 Chevrolet HHR, the 2005-2006 Pontiac Pursuit in Canada; the 2006-2007 Pontiac Solstice; 2003-2007 Saturn Ion; and 2007 Saturn Sky. The fix– an ignition key cover that changed the design from a slot to a key hole — did not solve the problem.

The Meltons settled their case against GM in late September. They were moved to request a NHTSA investigation to alert the public to the dangers of the defective ignition switch.

In late January, GM reported the defect to NHTSA and announced a recall of 2005-2007 Cobalt and Pontiac G5 vehicles. In a press release, GM acknowledged six deaths tied to the defect. The automaker did not mention these deaths to NHTSA in its official Defect and Noncompliance Notice – a regulatory requirement.  On Feb. 18, the Melton family requested that NHTSA open a TQ. A week later, GM widened the recall to include all models affected by the defect and announced that 13 deaths and 31 crashes were linked to the problem.  Its amended Defect Notice contained a chronology of its actions related to the faulty ignition switch since 2004. GM neglected to say when it learned of the 13 deaths.

Cooper said that failure is among several big gaps in GM’s report to NHTSA.

“They don’t talk about when they learned of these fatalities, but our case shows they knew of them well before 2014,” he added. “If there is ever a case that warranted civil and potential criminal penalties, it’s this case. And, if and when GM tells the whole story, NHTSA will recognize this as well.”

About The Cooper Firm

Lance Cooper founded The Cooper Firm in 2006. With experience in substantial personal injury and wrongful death cases, he has represented plaintiffs in numerous civil jury trials and has successfully prosecuted hundreds of cases and gained multi-million dollar verdicts and settlements on behalf of his clients. For more information about our firm, please visit www.thecooperfirm.com.

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Media Contact:

Victoria Schneider
(770) 427-5588
Victoria@thecooperfirm.com

 

 

Why Lawsuits Matter to Safety – GM Recall was 9 years and 6 deaths too late

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Why Lawsuits Matter to Safety

IMG_7685Many people only associate lawsuits with negative feelings, but lawsuits can be vital to your safety.  Why is the Ford Pinto no longer available?  Lawsuits.   What improved the protection of your airbags and seat belts?   Lawsuits. What changed the way your baby’s crib was manufactured to prevent deaths? Lawsuits.

A more recent example of this can be seen with GM’s nine-years-too late recall of the 2005 Cobalt and Pontiac G5.   Lance Cooper, attorney at The Cooper Firm, settled a lawsuit against GM in which 29-year-old Brooke Melton, died due to a defect that GM knew about since 2004.  The case was Melton vs. General Motors. The defect causes the car’s ignition switch to move unexpectedly and unintentionally from the RUN to ACC position, which then cuts power to the engine, the anti-lock brakes, and the power steering.  That is exactly what happened to Brooke Melton.  She died in 2010 when her 2005 Cobalt slipped into accessory position as she was driving down Highway 92 in Paulding County, Georgia.   Because she lost power to so many essential systems on her car, she lost control and skidded into another vehicle.

GM knew of the defect in 2004, during production stage, but went on to sell the vehicles regardless. Complaints were sent to GM immediately about the issue, and GM tried to cover the issue with a “fix” that would change the ignition key from a slot hole to a key hole. This did not solve the issue, however.   After handling Brooke’s case, Lance Cooper sent a request to the National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration (“NHTSA”) to open a Timeliness Query Investigation about GM’s official response to an earlier NHTSA investigation.  So far, NHTSA has still not asked GM to amend its prior response (called a Part 573 Notice) to include the deaths that GM recently acknowledged in its more recent press releases.

Cooper says that the decision to continue to market the Cobalt, despite the known defect, was a cost thing which ended up costing six people their lives. “It’s bone-chilling.  GM recognized the defect.  If it would have just fixed it, I have no doubt that Brooke Melton would be alive today. I am a conservative trial lawyer and I am conservative in my beliefs that the federal government often doesn’t do a good job, and you need the private market–in this case, the jury system—to let individuals investigate and hold companies like GM accountable.”

To read the full story check out the USA Today articleLawsuit: GM knew of Cobalt ignition problemLawyer asks feds to force GM to explain recall timing.

For more news regarding the GM recall and can Cobalt ignition problem including interviews with CBS and Channel 2 Action news, please visit our News Page here.

Featured Case: Settlement of claim Against the State of Georgia

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Featured Case: Against State of Georgia

State of GeorgiaOn June 20, 2012, our client was riding his bicycle on Georgia Highway 77 in Oglethorpe County, Georgia when an employee of Advantage Behavioral Health Systems, a Community Service Board for the State of Georgia, lost control of her vehicle and struck our client from behind.  Our client was propelled into the car windshield and down onto the asphalt.

Our client was in fantastic health before the crash.  In fact, he had just won a triathlon.  As a result of the crash, he suffered a closed head injury, significant scarring, an injury to his shoulder requiring surgery, as well as injuries to his neck and lower back.  We were hired to pursue a claim against the at fault driver.  Since the driver was a State employee, we had to place the State of Georgia on notice of our claim within one year of our client’s wreck.  This notice is called an ante litem notice.

Georgia law sets out specific rules for when and how you must notify a county, city or state government if you intend to bring legal action.  Separate Georgia statutes govern the service of ante litem notices on cities, counties and the State.  Each has different time frames for the notice.  Since our client’s claim was against a State employee, the ante litem notice had to be filed within twelve months of the crash.  Please keep this in mind if you believe you, or a family member, may have a claim against a government entity.

The Attorney General’s Office for the State of Georgia defended our client’s claim aggressively.  Fortunately, we were able to negotiate a substantial settlement for our client.

If you or someone you know has been involved in an accident, please contact our offices to see how we can help you.


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