A jury found General Motors (GM) guilty of negligently designing the fuel tank in a family station wagon that exploded after a low-speed crash. Six people burned, and two died, including a young boy named Shane McGee.
The McGee family sued GM for their horrible burn injuries and for the death of Shane. During the six-month trial, attorney Bob Kelley questioned a former GM engineer named Ronald Elwell. Elwell testified that GM knew of the problem with this fuel tank, and knew how to solve it with a fuel tank shield that cost approximately $4.50. Elwell explained that GM decided not to fix the problem because even at only $4.50 the shield cost too much.
General Motors tried to exclude from evidence a study calculating how much it would be worth for GM to eliminate deaths from fuel-fed fires in GM vehicles. The study concluded that fuel-fed fires cost GM $2.20 per
The McGees’ attorneys fitted an
The news media initially reported that the verdict was for $33 million, but the actual verdict was for $60 million. The appellate courts ordered GM to pay the full $60 million dollars, plus $31 million in interest.
The CBS program 60 Minutes ran a long segment on the case and on the ways the trial has affected this country.