Kelley Uustal Trial Attorney
May 19, 1998

General Motors Found Responsible for Deadly Fire Defect

After a six month long trial, 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 a 1983 Oldsmobile Cutlass Cruiser after a fuel 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 shields for certain vehicles with rear-mounted fuel tanks.

After 5 years of appeals by General Motors, the court ordered the corporation to pay the verdict plus interest. The boy’s parents received $60 million in damages for the wrongful death of their son. No punitive damages were levied against GM. This case was featured on CNN, 60 Minutes, The New York Times, and USA Today and many other news outlets.

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