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Are damage caps affecting product liability cases?

The massive GM recall that took place last year is now raising some legal questions concerning the tort law of different states. The families of two Wisconsin teens are questioning whether damage caps in their state discourage the reporting of product defects like that found in the GM ignitions.

The accident that claimed the life of the two teens occurred in 2006. The defective ignition switch of their Chevy Cobalt was the direct cause of the accident. The parents wanted to sue GM, but found many road blocks to litigation. The reason: Wisconsin's damage caps. In that state, the maximum recovery for loss of society is capped at $350,000. One law firm that declined to represent the families, stated that the limited recovery made it cost prohibitive for the firm to litigate the case.

In contrast, some states, like Georgia, do not have a strict damages cap. It is believed that a law suit from that state sparked the beginning of the public disclosure concerning the defective GM parts. In the end, over two million GM vehicles were recalled in the United States. Louisiana is among the states that have outlawed punitive damages altogether. Punitive damages can only be recovered by a plaintiff when it is allowed by statute.

Any Louisiana resident who feels that he or she may have a product liability claim should act quickly to obtain legal advice. In Louisiana, an action must be brought within one year from the day the injury occurred. A timely pursuit of your legal rights may help preserve a plaintiff's ability to receive justice.

Source: American Bar Association, "Did damage caps discourage suits that could have spotlinghted GM ignition defect?," Debra Cassens Weiss, Dec. 30, 2014

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