We trust auto and auto parts manufacturers to offer us products that are safe, work well and are free from defects. But not every manufacturer deserves that trust. The federal government has recalled billions of autos and auto parts due to defects that make them unsafe. Many of these recalls succeed in protecting Americans, but a minority take place only after an innocent motorist is hurt or killed because of the recalled product. And in a cynical effort to save money, a few unscrupulous manufacturers knowingly continue to make and sell defective products and parts even after they know the products are unsafe — and even when a safer alternative is only slightly more expensive.
That was the situation in the case that partner Brian Panish won against General Motors in 1999 for a record $4.9 billion, which remains the largest personal injury verdict in American history. In that case, Anderson v. GM, two adults and four children riding in a 1979 Chevy Malibu were severely burned because of the defective design and placement of the vehicle’s gas tank. A drunk driver rear-ended the car at more than 70 miles per hour, causing the tank — which was placed in front of the rear bumper — to rupture and cause an explosion. At trial, Brian Panish and his co-counsel showed a 1973 memo from a General Motors engineer showing that it would cost $6 extra per vehicle to move the tank to a safer location over the rear axle of vehicles. But instead of incurring that extra cost, they argued, GM put profits first and exposed thousands of people to the risk of injuries like the plaintiffs had sustained.
Another success for the firm had to do with tire tread separation, a recent and very widespread auto product defect that led to the recall of almost seven million Bridgestone/Firestone tires in 2000 and 2001. Before the recall, the tires were responsible for at least 271 deaths and 800 injuries, according to the federal Department of Transportation. These defective tires, many of which were included on brand-new Fords, had a tendency to fall apart while being used at high speeds causing drivers to lose control and be involved in serious accidents. In Lampe v. Continental Tire, the resulting accident left a woman paraplegic. Two of the firm’s partners, Brian Panish and Adam Shea, won more than $55 million for the plaintiff, making the case the nation’s largest defective-tire verdict.
The partners of Panish Shea & Boyle are recognized as leaders in the field of tire and automotive defects law. They have been repeatedly honored and nominated as Trial Lawyers of the Year over the past decade; Brian Panish has also won the American Jurisprudence Award in Product Liability. Brian Panish frequently speaks on trial procedure before consumer attorneys’ groups and all three are active in professional life.
Auto Product Liability and Tire Defect Verdicts & Settlements
- Lampe v. Continental General Tire $55,600,000
- Barber v. Mossy Ford $22,765,864
- Hill v. Titan $7,400,000
- Flores v. Doe $6,500,000
Fuel fed fire caused by defectively designed 15 passenger van rollover. Many occupants killed or severely burned.
- Fuller v. Bethany Baptist Church $6,000,000
- Roepke v. Doe $1,995,000
- DeLeon v. Doe $1,700,000
- Hosseini v. Hankook Tire $1,500,000
- Frankl v. Goodyear Confidential