General Motors Corporation was ordered by a jury to pay $33 million to Robert and Constance McGee, whose 13-year-old son, Shane, was burned to death in their 1983 Oldsmobile Cutlass Cruiser after a gasoline tank fire. The jury agreed with the allegations set forth by the boy’s parents, who claimed that the absence of a protective shield over the gas tank made their vehicle a potentially explosive lethal hazard.
The McGees alleged that GM knew for more than two decades about the defects and that it failed to act to protect the safety of drivers. It was later revealed that GM engineers did, in fact, perform a cost-benefit analysis to determine whether it would be worth the expense for the company to invest in fuel shields for certain vehicles with rear-mounted gas tanks.
The boy’s parents received $60 million in damages for the wrongful death of their son. No punitive damages were levied against GM.