Sunday, June 28, 2009
I will be involved in a press conference tomorrow morning at 11:30am. Be sure to watch the news tomorrow. I don't know if there will be any national coverage, but I certainly hope so. Keep checking back here to see what needs to happen next. We will need everyone's support. My goal is to ensure that every US Congressman and US Senator receives letters and phone calls from their constituents in support of this bill!
Tuesday, June 23, 2009
Come now the Plaintiffs...
All the people who have been injured by Chrysler, and the Defendant...has fled the country with our tax money. What's worse, our government held the door open for them. The Supreme Court thought about stopping them. They stopped Chrysler at the door and asked them to wait for a day before the sale to Fiat was allowed to happen. Then they decided that the safety and Constitutional Rights of the American people weren't important enough to take a closer look at the issue and then opened the door wide so that they could escape the people they have injured. At least, that's how it feels.
That said, I still believe in our government, President Obama, his Administration, our Congress, and our judicial system. I just think that they, like all humans do, made a mistake. I think that this immunity from product liability was slipped into the middle of a bunch of extremely complicated issues and they didn't think this simple one through. I imagine they thought something along the lines of "too bad for the 300 or more people who have been injured by Chrysler, but that's what happens in a bankruptcy." They didn't think about the people who might be injured in the future, including themselves and their loved ones. They didn't think about the fact that our money was being used, which should require Chrysler to have more responsibility to the American people, not less. They didn't think about the impact this has on our Constitutional Right to a Civil Trial. In regards to this issue, they simply didn't think. Now they have a chance to fix it.
GM is pursuing the same course of action that Chrysler took. A report came out today that predicts approximately 3,400 injuries and deaths will be caused in the first year by the vehicles that were sold by GM and Chrysler before their bankruptcies. The report shows that at least as many injuries and deaths can be expected each year over the next several years. The fact is we won't know, unless something changes, because injuries and deaths caused by defective Chrysler or GM products sold before their bankruptcies (over 99 million vehicles that are registered and in use on the road today) won't be tracked, and the defects won't be fixed! As I said, I believe in our government, and firmly believe they will do the right thing here, but as soon as a solution is proposed we will need to show our support for it by speaking out for change, as we did during the election. Are you willing to do that?
Now, enough of the political stuff. (Although, if you think about it, it's not really political, it's a matter of our safety!) I promised some things at the end of my last post. One promise was that there would be pictures. Obviously the pictures above have a lot to do with the earlier paragraphs, but I've wanted to share them with you for a long time. One picture shows the jeep sitting on all four wheels. You can see how the fire damage started in the back of the engine and moved back into the jeep, the paint still looks fresh on the grill, where the fire didn't get to it. The other picture shows the jeep on it's side, which is how it was positioned after the accident, while I was still in the driver's seat.
Another promise was that I would tell you about my new Prosthetist and some new goals. For reasons that I can't get into right now I've decided to switch to a different Prosthetist. He lost his left leg at the age of three in a lawn mower accident. He uses a C-leg that is very similar to mine. He's been in the Paralympics and is extremely active. In between trips to DC, I managed to find time to meet with him.
During our first visit he watched how I walk, looked at the alignment of my legs, and spent quite a bit of time talking with me about my progress. He has some ideas and thinks that he can work with me to improve the way I walk. In fact, he thinks that he can help me to walk without the crutches! Now, I have to admit that I'm skeptical, but I'm willing to give it a try. This won't happen over night, maybe not even in the next year, but it's nice to have something to work toward again!
In regards to the issues that the Chrysler and GM bankruptcies have created, things are happening (lots of good media attention) and I will keep you updated. It's pretty much all I'm focused on these days. I'll keep you apprised of any changes and how you can help. For now, please share these issues with your family and friends and keep checking back to see if anything new is happening. I've been trying to leave posts up for a week before writing a new update, but that may change soon, so keep checking back to see if there's anything new!
Saturday, June 13, 2009
The results of the Sale
This week the Supreme Court allowed the Chrysler bankruptcy plan and sale to Fiat to go through as written. The plan incudes liability protection for the new Chrysler from injuries caused by any defective vehicle sold before the bankruptcy. Not just current product liability cases, like mine, but any future liability cases resulting from these vehicles as well. Think about this, that's every Chrysler vehicle currently on the road today! GM is about to get the same deal. Deals that we have financed with our tax dollars.
The NHTSA uses product liability cases to track and determine defective auto parts, which determines when a recall needs to be sent to owners of unsafe vehicles. How many of the over 40 million GM and Chrysler vehicles that are currently on the road have potentially defective/deadly parts or designs? How many of you have gotten recall notices on your GM or Chrysler vehicles? How many have gotten more than one part recalled? Now that we cannot file product liability claims against Chrysler the injuries caused by these vehicles won't get reported. If you currently own a Chrysler vehicle and a part that's covered under warranty brakes and you're not injured or killed they will pay to replace the part, but if that part injures or kills you they won't have to pay for anything. (Now that they won't have to recall as many parts that's a pretty sweet deal for them huh?)
Sure, an accident report will get filed, but no one will have any reason to spend the money on finding out if there was a defect. The number of injuries caused by these defects will rise. My injuries have led me to unemployment, Social Security Disability, and probably Medicare in addition to other government funded assistance programs. A vehicle with a defective part, or parts, can and will cause serious disabiling inuries and death. These types of injuries effect everyone around the person with the injury as well.
Our President (whom I support) has said that Health Care Reform is a priority (which I agree with) and has said that Medicare and Medicaid are bankrupting the government. Yet, his Automotive Task Force and the Treasury Department built this liability protection into the Chrysler bankruptcy plan and sale to Fiat. This liability protection will lead to more people who rely on Medicare, which will increase the financial strain. I can't imagine that that's the kind of Health Care Reform our President had in mind!
Health Care Reform will be costly, yet we are also financing the Chrysler and GM bankruptcies with our tax dollars. In the process we are increasing dependence on government funded programs like Medicare and Social Security, which leaves less tax money that could be allocated to Health Care Reform, which we will need faster because of the increase of injuries! Wouldn't the money be better spent in a manner that protects the people who have provided that money?
Yes, this kind of thing happens in a normal bankruptcy, but because these bankruptcies have been financed with our tax dollars, this bankruptcy is far from normal. Our tax dollars have been used to give Chrysler this liability protection, which blocks our 7th Amendment Right to hold them accountable in a civil trial! That's what makes these bankruptcies different. That's why this bankruptcy is not consistent with conventional bankruptcy practices, which the Treasury Department somehow seemed to miss, because they claimed that it was!
Our Supreme Court had the opportunity to stop the Chrysler bankruptcy plan from going through with the product liability protection. They even placed a stay on the bankruptcy and sale this past Monday, but they lifted the stay the very next day and allowed the plan to go through. According to the Court the appeal applicants must show that at least four of the nine Justices find that the issue raised is serious enough to warrant hearing a full appeal. The court did not consider the merits of the arguements, only whether to hear the full appeal. How can any Judge not see the seriousness of this issue? With 40 million potentially defective vehicles on the road every American is at risk, regardless of position, which includes themselves and their own loved ones! This issue also sets a precedent that the government can use tax money to help businesses in a manner that infringes on our rights!
I would think that all nine of the Justices would have felt those issues serious enough to hear the full appeal! These issues effect all of us including Chrysler employees, GM employees, Republicans, Democrats, and government officials. First they came after our money, and now they're using it to come after our rights. Congress and the Obama Administration must work together to fix this.
First, GM must not be allowed to have the product liability protection that Chrysler snuck through on their plan. If the Chrysler decision can somehow be changed (which I doubt) then it should be altered so that the new Chrysler has successor liability. If the new Chrysler and GM are allowed to keep this protection then Congress will need to take action, afterall the United States Government will own a percentage of each of these companies. Congress should set up a relief fund for victims with current law suits and both new companies should be required to purchase retro active insurance policies to account for any future claims caused by the vehicles sold before the bankruptcies.
If you are willing to write more letters or make more phone calls, now would be the time to do it. Suggest that your Congressmen and Senators gather support for these solutions, or work together to find a better solution. Above all, they cannot allow this issue to be brushed aside without a solution. If you know anyone who works in the media share these issues with them. The media is one of the best ways to draw the attention of our government.
As I'm sure you all know, these issues have dominated my life for the past month. I promise that future posts won't be all political. There have been other things happening as well that I want to share. A word of warning though, in next weeks post I plan to attach pictures of the wreckage. However, I'll also talk about my recent visit to a new Prosthetist, and some new goals...
Tuesday, June 09, 2009
The Second Trip
I gave a statement during the press conference and then did several one on one interviews with reporters afterwards. Some coverage of the press conference was shown on FOX news in DC and ABC World News. Then it was off to see the Legislator's!
I met with representative's of Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO) and Senator Kit Bond (R-MO). Both of the people I met with seemed concerned, and I was thrilled to hear Senator McCaskill bring the issue up during the Senate Commerce Committee hearing later that day! Along with other injuries she even pointed out that defective vehicles can cause someone to lose their legs! I like to think that's because she heard my story. :)
As the Commerce Committee was starting I was honored to do a live interview with CNN from the Senate Building Rotunda! How exciting is that! Before I gave my interview Senator Barbara Boxer from California, who was also preparing to do an interview with another network, approached and I got to speak with her about why I was in DC. She was concerned about the issue and has asked her staff to do more research!
The second day I visited with Staff members from Senator Lugar's office and Congressman Carson's office. They were also sympathetic and are trying to coordinate their offices efforts in regards to this matter.
After I came back to Indianapolis I was interviewed by Amber Stearns on WIBC. I've also contacted several members of the media to keep them up to date. My hope is that CNN will do a follow up that focuses on the use of tax payer money and how that should impact the way the bankruptcy is handled.
I have to say, the second trip left me feeling far more hopeful. I'm still not entirely convinced that the message has gotten to the Obama Administration, or if it has, that they "get it". I was contacted by a reporter from the Huffington Post when I returned to Indy. The story ran today. (Click on the link to see the story.)
While I was on this trip I had the chance to meet several others who have been injured by Chrysler and GM. One was a six year old boy who, at the age of three, was in a car accident and his seatbelt broke. He is now paralyzed from the chest down. The highpoint of my trip was racing him in our wheel chairs through a tunnel that connects the Senate Buildings!
Since the Supreme Court issued a temporary stay on the sale of Chrysler it had appeared that we made an impact. Of course, there are other issues that they needed to consider as well. For example the Indiana Police and Teacher's pension funds that were invested in Chrysler. In regards to the liability issue, I had hoped that the Supreme Court would realize that, in this case, our tax money is being used to block our 7th Amendment right to a civil trial, and that shouldn't be allowed. All they needed to do is remove the tort protection from the bankruptcy plan and hold the "new Chrysler" accountable for successor liability on all pending or future product liability claims. It can't be that hard to fix.
Unfortunately the Supreme Court ultimately allowed the plan to go through late Tuesday. According to the Assocaited Press: The court issued a brief, unsigned opinion explaining its action. To obtain a delay, or stay, someone must show that at least four of the nine justices find that the issue raised is serious enough to warrant hearing a full appeal and that a majority of the court will conclude the lower court decision was wrong. According to the court "The applicants have not carried that burden,". The court did not consider the merits of the opponents' arguments, only whether to hear their full-blown appeal.
I am extremely dissapointed by this decision. I would have thought that tax payer money being used in a manner that infringes on our rights would be a "serious enough" issue for the Supreme Court to hear the full appeal!
The fight is not over. Now that the legal matter is over, it's time for congress to act!
Tuesday, June 02, 2009
Returning to DC
Today I will return to Washington, DC to speak with legislators, lobbyists, and hopefully press. The Center for Justice and Democracy is organizing this effort. Tomorrow morning I will attend a briefing at the Association for Justice with several others who have been injured by Chrysler or GM products. After the briefing I will travel around Capitol Hill speaking with anyone who will listen.
There will be a Senate Commerce Committee hearing on Wednesday and there might be another House Judiciary Committee hearing on Thursday. As of now I don't think that I will be allowed to testify at either of these hearings, but there is always a chance. I have been allowed to submit written testimony for the House hearing that I attended on May 21st, and may be allowed to submit written testimony to the other committee's as well.