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Ralph Nader > Special Features > Letter to Obama RE: Defective GM & Chrysler Cars

August 5, 2009

President Barack Obama

The White House

1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW

Washington, DC 20500

Dear President Obama,

We are writing again to urge you to restore the obliterated rights of victims of defective GM and Chrysler cars. Our earlier letter of July 14 has received no reply.

The bankruptcy process for GM and Chrysler that your Wall Street task force directed left those persons who allege injuries as a result of defective vehicles sold by these companies, and with pending or not-yet-filed claims, without redress. Their legal claims against the companies for compensation for their injuries, or family members’ claims for lost loved ones, were extinguished by the dictatorial bankruptcy process. In the case of Chrysler, future victims of defective products on the road will be without opportunity for redress; GM belatedly agreed to accept liability for future victims.

When we wrote you last month on this topic, there appeared some possibility of a legislative or administrative remedy for these double victims — first, by corporate wrongdoing; second, by an unjust bankruptcy process — in connection with efforts to address concerns of closed-down dealers. The likelihood of such an arrangement now appears diminished.

Thus it is imperative that you and your administration assure these persons a modicum of justice. As the dominant shareholder in GM and an overseer at Chrysler, the government could instruct the companies to accept liability. You could require they purchase insurance policies to cover claims against them for defective products. Or, the worst option (but far better than inaction), the government itself could provide a compensation fund for these victims.

In addition to the identifiable suffering of those already victimized by Chrysler and GM’s defective products (you can acquaint yourself with the anguishing stories of some of the victims here), there is the matter of future victims of defective Chrysler products. Hundreds or thousands of people will foreseeably be victimized by dangerous products sold by Old Chrysler. All of them will be disbelieving when they discover that not only do they have to come to grips with their injuries, or loss of family members, bu that they have no legal claim against Chrysler. The obvious remedy to prevent this problem is to require Chrysler to accept liability for future injuries. If your administration declines to take this step, however, then it must lend support to a petition now pending at the Federal Trade Commission, calling for the roughly 30 million Old Chrysler cars now on the road to be accompanied at resale by prominent disclosure statements regarding Chrysler’s immunity from civil liability for defective cars.

Mr. President, there is no doubt that managing the GM and Chrysler transition process required hard choices and tradeoffs. But whether to victimize again the victims of these companies’ unsafe cars was not among those hard choices. We urge you to reverse course on this matter, and ensure that past and future victims are provided with the opportunity to seek compensation in courts of law.

A few weeks ago, we spoke to the gentleman at the White House in charge of letters to determine what your response policy is, other than to continue George W. Bush’s policy of not responding nor even acknowledging receipt. We await his answer and hope to hear from you about the above-noted travesty of justice.



Ralph Nader


Robert Weissman

P.O. Box 19312

Washington, DC 20036