Deadly Ignition Switch (US)

If a car’s ignition switch was so sensitive, that while you were driving the car, “a bump in the road, or a knee hitting a keychain – could force the key to slip to the off position, cutting power to the engine”, so that “[p]ower brakes and steering would be lost, and airbags might not deploy” would you consider that car fit for sale?

General Motors did.

This story sheds more light on GM’s conduct in relation to its sale of 30 million vehicles with deadly ignition switches, GM’s internal decision-making once the fault came to light, and the process by which the defect was brought to the attention of prosecutors.  You may recall that GM entered a deferred prosecution agreement with the Department of Justice in September this year.  While GM admitted 15 deaths were caused by its concealment of the deadly ignition switch, this piece reveals that some 124 claims have been paid out of the GM fatality fund so far.

Like so many major US corporate crime prosecutions, the criminal behaviour may never have come to light without the investigative work of a plaintiff lawyer.

Deadly Duodenoscopes (US and Europe)

Duodenoscopes are medical devices used to look inside the body of patients. US Senator Patty Murray released a report, “Preventable Tragedies: Superbugs and How Ineffective Monitoring of Medical Device Safety Fails Patients alleging that “by early 2013, Olympus, the manufacturer of 85 percent of the duodenoscopes used in the United States, knew of two independent lab reports finding that the closed-channel model duodenoscope could harbor and spread bacteria even after cleaning according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Olympus never brought this information to FDA, and did not alert hospitals, physicians or patients in the U.S. to the risk of infection until February 2015.”

The report also found that manufacturers “failed to meet their obligations to self-report serious illnesses and deaths that may have been caused by their duodenoscopes” and criticised hospitals for not following proper reporting processes, and the FDA, for taking too long to warn hospitals and the public of possible risks – and for wasting time conducting unnecessary investigations, because it was unaware of European regulator findings about the products.

Increasing Prosecution-Defence Communication and Cooperation (UK – criminal)

Mirroring the Victorian trend toward greater prosecution-defence cooperation, the Judiciary of England and Wales has released its latest Better Case Management newsletter, focussing on defence obligations at an early stage in proceedings.

Sewerage Leak Results in Record Fine (UK – criminal)

“Thames Water Utilities Limited (Thames Water) has been ordered to pay record-breaking £1 million after polluting a canal in Hertfordshire. … Explaining why the fine was so large, HHJ Bright QC stated that:

The time has now come for the courts to make clear that very large organisations such as [Thames Water] really must bring about the reforms and improvements for which they say they are striving because if they do not the sentences passed upon them for environmental offences will be sufficiently severe to have a significant impact on their finances.”