August 31, 2009
Two-and-a-half months after Chrysler took a pass on accepting responsibility for injuries and deaths caused by its defective products via an expedited bankruptcy plan, the automaker announced that it was going to accept future liability claims for vehicles made by the old company.
It would be heartwarming to imagine a corporate come-to-Jesus moment, but cooler calculations apparently prompted this new tack, including increased pressure from injury victims, Congress, and the threat of state-by-state litigation into the legality of wiping away future claimant’s rights.
Chrysler said it looked at its revenue forecasts and decided that it could afford to pay claims.
“While Chrysler Group still faces challenges, we are confident that the future viability of the company will not be threatened if we accept these claims,” John Bozzella, senior vice president of external affairs and public policy, said in a statement.
Perhaps the steel trap-like mental reflexes that led Chrysler to the present low finally snapped into place. Could Chrysler really afford not to accept the claims? Imagine an automaker wounded by low reliability and safety ratings struggling to promote consumer confidence in its brand. Would it really need a story in the local paper decrying this unjust quirk of the bankruptcy, every time one of its super-great products created another permanently injured victim?
Yet Chrysler, like its brother-in-bankruptcy General Motors, is still stiffing liability claims filed before the company’s April 30 filing. Those unfortunate enough to have experienced a vehicle defect that caused a death or injury before the bankruptcy still have no recourse against the companies.
Justice shouldn’t be meted out based on a date on the calendar.