Voyage of the Damned: GM Tort Claimants' Opening Appellate Brief

Steve Jakubowski
by Steve Jakubowski

What started out a couple months ago as a “ Slow Boat to China,” today feels more like the Voyage of the Damned. Yesterday I filed this “ Opening Brief” (plus the Sale Opinion at Appendix A and the Sale Order and MPA at Appendix B) on behalf of my five clients in our appeal of the GM Sale Order: Callan Campbell, et al., v. Motors Liquidation Company, Case No. 09-6818 (NRB) (S.D.N.Y.). This appeal is the only one pending that challenges the abhorrent treatment of preexisting products liability claims in either the GM or Chrysler bankruptcy cases. When I first got involved in the case three months ago, I summarized here the injuries and the myriad adversities faced by my clients on a daily basis. I wrote: “The sad, and all too tragic, stories of my clients, taken from the filed objection, are set forth below. The only thing my clients did wrong here was buy a GM car. For this act of brand loyalty, they have paid dearly. It’s not enough that people lose their lives and get severely injured from design defects and product flaws, now they and their loved ones get thrown under the bus!”

Having now lived with GM for about 450 hours the past three months, I have to say I’m thoroughly appalled at the cold-hearted stinginess of those calling the shots at GM and Chrysler. They have left helpless accident victims hanging out to dry for reasons I cannot fathom, while otherwise spending “whatever it takes” — to whomever it takes — “to get the ‘deal’ done.” (See Opening Brief, at p.7).

With the US Treasury paying a mind-boggling $92 billion for most of “Old GM” (see Opening Brief, at p.7 fn.4), would it really be such a burden for the Secretary and his Boss to set aside another $250 million or so (or about 1/4% of the total consideration paid in the deal) to make sure there’s a small, but adequate, reserve to cover medical bills, assisted care, and other basic requirements of those (see, e.g., here, here, and Callan Campbell here) severely injured by the design defects built into cars manufactured by the same plants they’re now the stewards of? (See Opening Brief at p.8 fn.6, estimating total remaining products claims left behind at $233.2 million).

Put another way, imagine you’ve got $92.00 in quarters in a big bucket. Now imagine that you can dramatically change for the better the lives of hundreds, maybe even thousands, of people your own mirror-image predecessor destroyed through no fault of their own. And imagine further that all you have to do to achieve that wonderful act of kind-heartedness is to take just one of those 368 quarters and put it aside for the benefit of those whose lives have been damned as a result of mistakes made by some of the people and property you just bought — and now control — for those 368 quarters.

That’s all that needs to be done in GM to make things right, and my guess is that only about a dime needs to be put aside to cover the outstanding products liability claims left to rot in Chrysler. But no one seems to have the political or moral compunction to wrestle those thirty-five cents from the Boss’s own clenched fist.

“Sad” and “pathetic” are the first words that come to mind as I ponder the fact that I’m not on the “ Slow Boat to China,” but on the Voyage of the Damned (Art Spiegelman’s take on it).

[Courtesy of]

Steve Jakubowski
Steve Jakubowski

More by Steve Jakubowski

Join the conversation
2 of 27 comments
  • Ihatetrees Ihatetrees on Sep 25, 2009
    Pch101: There is only one borrower on earth who is considered to be essentially risk free, and that is the US treasury. Inflation is a risk with treasuries. Although TIPS are an excellent choice for low risk/return investments. Even a AAA bond has default risk, and the bondholder has to accept the risk. Don’t play if you can’t or won’t pay. If there's one thing the last 18 months has shown, it the ass clown corruption in the bond rating game.
  • Yankinwaoz Yankinwaoz on Sep 25, 2009

    iHateTrees is right. The investment rating system has proven to be deeply corrupted, and frankly worthless. They sold their reputations to the highest bidder.

  • Carrera I live in Florida and owned summer tires once before on a Corolla. Yes I know, it's a Corolla but it drove much better ( to me) with those on. I would have bought them again but replacement time came during the beginning of the " transitory inflation" and by then, I found all seasons that were much cheaper. Currently I own a slightly more performance oriented Acura TLX -AWD and when the OEM all season Michelin wear out, I will replace them with summer Michelins. Often times, a car comes alive with summer tires but I understand why people don't buy them above South Carolina. I lived in Canada for 5 years and just thinking about swapping twice per year made me anxious.
  • Steve Biro I don’t bother with dedicated summer or winter tires. I have no place to store them. But the newest all-weather tires (with the three-peak mountain symbol) are remarkably good year-round. The best of them offer 90 percent of the performance of winter tires and still fall mid-pack among summer ultra-high performance tires. That’s more than enough for my location in New Jersey.
  • Carfan94 Never, it doesn’t get cold eneough here in TN, to switch to winter tires. But it gets cold enough that running Summer tires year round is impractical. I’m happy with my All seasons
  • Analoggrotto Anyone who has spent more than 15 minutes around a mustang owner would know this will be in insta-hit.
  • Akear If this is true then they won't go out of business. Good for them!