General Motors is conducting an internal investigation as to why the company did not pursue complaints about faulty ignition switches and malfunctioning air bags. Last month, GM announced it would recall 1.6 million vehicles.
But GM has certainly known about the complaints. The company even settled cases as far back as 2005 on the malfunctioning vehicles. But those settlements were secret at the demand of the company. Such secrecy in personal injury cases is all too common.
Settlements on priest abuse, environmental damage and product safety all occur with little public censure, says a USA Today editorial:
Secrecy thrives because it benefits the parties involved, none more than businesses that want to avoid embarrassment and lawsuits. Plaintiffs and their lawyers often go along for bigger, speedier settlements. And judges approve to move cases along on their crowded calendars...
When information involves lethal products, abusive priests or incompetent doctors, judges should be forcing the information into the public eye, not leaving the news media to pry it out.
On The Daily Circuit, we discuss why courts permit secret settlements. What's the public's stake?