The Ferguson Law Firm Partner, Attorney Larry C. Hunter recalls a memorable defective product case and how the Ferguson Law Firm’s team helped GM engineers make their vehicles safer.
I had a good friend that was driving home. He worked at the paper mill in Evadale, and he said he didn’t know what happened. He’s just driving down the street and it’s like somebody picked up the rear end of his truck with a slingshot and just catapulted him into the pine trees on the side of the road.
And then he started telling me about it. He had had some, I was asking him, you know: if you had any recent repairs to the truck? And yeah, he had had the four tires replaced and he told me what type of truck it was.
And I knew from working on my own truck that they had a problem with the way that the spare tire was suspended underneath the bed and it was a GM product. And so I told him, I said “I know what happened. They put the retaining nut on it, upside down.” He said, “How would you know that?” So we went out there and looked.
He had replaced the truck with another truck that was very similar and it was a GM product. So I went out and I showed him: if you put it on upside down, it creates a slipping device rather than a holding device if it vibrates and turns to a certain direction. And when he saw that, he just couldn’t believe I knew that.
I don’t know how I knew that other than I’d worked on my own vehicle. And I saw that and said “Man, I hope nobody ever puts this retaining nut on the bolt holding the spare tire on upside down.”
So the fun part of that case is he went out and welded a frame and then got the device that held his spare tire up off his old truck that was still in salvage and put all that together. And GM was just telling me I was crazy, I didn’t know what I was talking about. I said, “So why don’t you come by the office and we’ll show you?”
So they fly in from Detroit, an engineering representative for GM, they go to the back of our office. We get this frame out. I put the nut on upside down, I turn it a certain way, I kick it, and the spare tire falls out. The engineer closed his deal, didn’t say a word, went and got in the car. And they did change that product.
We learned about the benefits of product law when I was going to law school back in the seventies. And if you stop and think about it, if it had not been for some of these lawsuits that – the Ford Pinto, for example – people would still be having problems that were not corrected that caused them injuries and cost them their lives.
And so when you discover a defect and the manufacturer finally corrects that defect – even though they’ve had to compensate your client or some other client for their injuries or their loss of life – it makes it better for the rest of society because that particular product defect is no longer on the market.