Total Recall: Multiple Car Manufacturers Recall Millions of Cars in 2015

2015 Car Manufacturers Recall

Recalls are always frustrating for consumers, but probably none are as frustrating as automotive recalls. We depend on our cars to get us where we want to go.

But when our safety is further compromised by faulty parts, consumers loose trust in the brands they love and champion. This year it seemed almost none of the automotive industry’s manufacturers escaped the need to recall their cars.

Deflating the Airbag Standard

It began with the Takata recall, which required more than 30 million vehicles by 10 different automakers to replace frontal airbags. Toyota, Honda and BMW are just a few companies who had to pay the price for Takata’s mistakes. When a crash occurred, the frontal airbags deployed with such explosive force, the metal shards in the airbags sprayed shrapnel throughout the cab. When a device that’s supposed to save your life turns your car into a warzone, that’s a huge manufacturing failure.

Das Bunk Auto

The Volkswagen (VW) Clean Diesel scandal is sure to go down in the history books as the biggest mistake the company ever made. VW cut corners in the rush to fulfill the Environmental Protection Agency’s air quality standards by rigging the tests for greenhouse gas emission on their models featuring the 2.0-liter diesel engines. The result was a recall of around 482,000 cars in the U.S. alone. In addition to having to pay $18 billion in fines, the company faces class-action lawsuits from American consumers who feel duped into paying premium prices for a product that pollutes 40 times the standard for nitrogen oxide.

The List Goes On

Other automakers recalling cars this year include:

  • Toyota recently recalled 6.4 million cars for a faulty window switch that could potentially lead to a short circuit and cause a fire. Affected are 2008-2010 Yaris, Corolla, Camry, Rav4, Highlander, Matrix, Tundra, Sequoia, Scion xB and xD. If this applies to your vehicle, your local dealership will replace the faulty switch for free.
  • GM issued two recalls. The first was for 3,300 2014 Chevy Silverado, GMC Sierra light-duty trucks, the 2015 heavy duty Sierra pick-up and the 2015 Suburban and Tahoe. All models involve a flawed ignition switch that can slip out of the run position. This causes the engine to stall, cutting the power steering and brakes, and deactivating the airbag.
  • The second GM recall involves a malfunctioning windshield wiper motor that may overheat and cause a fire in the 2016 Chevy Traverse, the GMC Acadia and the Buick Enclave.
  • Chevrolet recalled 1,733 2015 Cruze models due to a rollaway risk caused by loose bolts and improper break fasteners.
  • Kia’s 2011-2013 Sorrentos were found to have a transmission glitch that causes the car to roll while parked. This oversight has already cost the company three injuries, 54 warranty claims and 14 customer complaints.
  • In addition to the models involved in the Takata recall, BMW had to recall 7,544 cars manufactured between October 2011 to June 2015 for a software malfunction that causes a side light to fail, making the car less visible at night.
  • Fiat Chrysler was ordered to pay a record fine of $105 million for mishandling safety recalls for millions of vehicles, with a total of 23 models affected.
  • 2016 Ford Fusion and Lincoln MKZ models were recalled for having fuel tanks that crack during crashes, increasing the risk of fire.
  • Mercedez-Benz had to recall 150,000 E-class and CLS 2013, 2014 and 2015 models for a design flaw that can cause a fire in the engine compartment.

If you suspect your car is subject to recall, you can check the VIN at Safecar.gov to be sure. In most cases, the manufacturer offers repairs free of charge to customers.

Attorney Scott Hooper helps people who have been harmed due to a company’s negligence. His experience handling product liability cases benefits clients when they need help the most. Case evaluations are fee and at no obligations to you, so contact him today if you’ve been harmed.

by Obu
January 11, 2016

DuPont Settles With Family Over Deadly Texas Gas Leak

DuPont Settles Texas Gas Leak

There was a substantial — and understandable — outcry when the federal government slapped industrial giant DuPont with a paltry fine of $370,000 after a gas leak killed four employees last fall.

After all, the company, which in 2013 posted $35.7 billion in revenue, was accused of numerous willful safety violations that directly led those four deaths. Even the head of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) called the fines insufficient, but he said they were the maximum possible under the law. OSHA placed blame for the incident squarely in DuPont’s hands.

Now it looks like the company will have to pay more than fines for its conduct. A lawsuit filed on behalf of the family of Crystal Wise, one of the victims, was settled earlier this month for an undisclosed amount. Lawsuits from other victims’ families remain pending.

The settlement comes after a report was released detailing the company failed to ensure the safety of employees. The mistakes were many; the consequences should be severe.

Report Details Safety Sidesteps

The incident occurred on Nov. 15, 2014, at DuPont’s facility in La Porte, Texas.

The leak began when Crystle Wise opened a faulty valve, spewing nearly 24,000 pounds of methyl mercaptan, a toxic gas used in the manufacture of pesticide, into the air. Three employees who came to her aid also lost their lives. If the gas had gotten out of the facility, unsuspecting civilians likely would have died as well.

On Sept. 30, the government released the findings and recommendations to address the safety issues in the facility. You can find the full report by the U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board here.


Here are a few of the more glaring findings:

  • Ventilation fans in the area where the methyl mercaptan was released were not functioning – despite an urgent request to fix them a month before the incident.
  • The alarm that detects when the amont of methyl mercaptan in the air exceeds safe levels did not sound until levels were already unacceptably high.
  • The ventilation flow rate in the area had never been fully tested.

The report even faults DuPont for its conduct after the disaster. It states that earlier this year, the company intended to resume production at the facility before it had addressed all safety concerns.

Where Do We Go From Here?

In a recent article, the magazine Esquire places the blame squarely on the state’s comparably light regulations on industry. The publication argues that light regulations allow companies to put profits over the health and environment of their workers.

The counter argument: the extent of current regulations is why many companies want to be here. Industrial activity is just one of the reasons why Texas is among the nation’s top job markets. It’s part of why the recession never hit Texas as hard as the rest of the U.S.

Who We Are

Scott Hooper is an attorney in Houston who has handled toxic chemical cases for both defendants and plaintiffs. He knows that these cases are very complex.

We can only hope that the adjudication of this case, and all others like it, has the net effect of making Texas safer for all of us.

by Scott Hooper
January 7, 2016

Auto Recalls Slipping Consumer Minds

airbag-recallEarlier this year, the Takata Corporation – a manufacturer of automotive safety products – recalled 34 million faulty air bags. As the largest recall in automotive history, it demonstrated that even manufacturers specializing in safe living still have a lot of work to do in providing the security consumers need for day-to-day life.

However, the aftermath of the Takata debacle served to illuminate yet another issue plaguing drivers across the nation. Many drivers opt not to take their car in after a recall has been ordered – a refusal that has resulted in not just serious injuries, but a number of preventable deaths.

Preventable Tragedy

Some 77% of road fatalities and injuries involving a Takata air bag occurred in vehicles that had been recalled but never repaired, according to Safety Research & Strategies, Inc. Car shopping site Autotrader found that just 56% of consumers overall take their car back to the shop after a recall. That’s a lot of potentially unsafe vehicles on our roads.

Confidence in your road navigation skills is perfectly normal, but drivers may be failing to take into account the clear and present danger of faulty equipment that can cause an accident that could cost you more than just cash. That so many Americans don’t bother to have their car examined after a recall suggests some may operate their vehicle with an aura of invincibility that – with such potentially deadly stakes – just isn’t worth the risk.

In 2013, there were nearly 6 million car crashes in the U.S., with over 32,000 fatalities. No one ever believes they’ll be part of a statistic until it happens. A family member learning you’ve been hurt, or worse, in a car crash could only be made worse by finding out that a simple trip to the repair shop may have kept things from being quite so bad.

A New Approach to Safety

The large number of recent recalls, capped by the record-setting Takata debacle, along with the mass reluctance of Americans’ to heed them, has some officials speculating that the government may take some initiative encouraging consumers to get on the ball.

“The record-setting recall of vehicles equipped with potentially flawed Takata airbags could ultimately result in new approaches by the government and manufacturers on how recalls are addressed,” an Autotrader senior analyst said in a news release.

Currently, owners are notified of a recall by mail sent from the car manufacturer. Mail may be discarded, forgotten or ignored not just because of the ‘it won’t happen to me’ belief, but perhaps also because recalls have become so common that it’s not out of the question to think drivers may be desensitized to them. With over 50 million recalls occurring before 2014 had even ended, it’s possible that perception of a recall’s significance could have dulled from sheer exposure and volume. When we see things happen over and over again, they become easier to tune out – an unfortunate phenomenon that often affects more than one aspect of life.

Drivers do themselves a great disservice by not heeding recalls, as even aside from the elevated risk of potential damage from accidents, it’s easy to find yourself in a financial bind when problems related to the design flaw begin to materialize. Learning you spent a thousand dollars on repairs your dealer could have prevented after a recall is enough to ruin anyone’s day.

Not to mention, if you ever sell the car, the new owner may very well be unaware of the recall and have to deal with any potential issues down the road. According to Autotrader, only 35% of car buyers research recalls when looking for a new vehicle.

It’s not necessarily your problem. But if you believe in karma, it’s just one more reason to lug yourself down to the dealer should you ever find that notice in your mailbox.

Contact Scott Hooper Law Firm

Attorney Scott Hooper helps people who have been harmed due to another person or company’s negligence. His experience handling product liability cases benefits clients seeking legal guidance. There is no obligation for a free case evaluation. Contact his firm today by filling out the form on this page or calling (713) 529-5055.

 

 

 

 

 

by Obu
August 22, 2015

Texas Highway Conditions

Drivers in Texas can now view current and future highway conditions across the state online, thanks to a new tool from the Texas Department of Transportation.

It’s known as Drive Texas, and it can be found at http://www.drivetexas.org/.

The tool will allow users to track everything from flooding to construction zones in real-time, as well as in the future. This can be very useful when planning a trip. The information can also be condensed into a single, easy-to-read report.

Although warning systems for traffic and other delays are appreciated by drivers everywhere, Texans will be particularly welcoming to the tool’s unique innovations. Viewers will have the option to search conditions not only by specific road or county, but also by individual types of traffic condition, such flooding, construction, accidents and wrecks, and more. You can pick and choose which ones you want to see and which ones you don’t.

In the Wake of the Flood

After the worst flooding in state history in May damaged property across the state by destroying homes, smashing bridges, and washing their remnants over miles of commuter highway, this tool could not have come at a better time. Officials across the state closed various roads and highways during the flood, including shutdowns of major highways between Dallas, Houston and San Antonio, and many have yet to be repaired or restored to full use.

Future highway conditions will be available for viewing as well, and announcements for upcoming road construction and closures on any Texas roadway, county or TxDOT district will be listed via drop-down menu.

Declared a national disaster in May, the flood’s aftermath continues to affect the lives of Texans. Hopefully, this effort by the TxDOT will help to make life a little easier as we continue to pick up the pieces.

by Scott Hooper
August 12, 2015

Chemical Plant Sidesteps Safety Protocol, Four Workers are Killed

industrial-accidentDuPont had long considered itself a leader in safety practices for industrial companies. The corporate giant made frequent note of their commitment to secure working conditions and their dedication to the health of employees working in their facilities.

That reputation suffered a disastrous blow last November when a faulty pipe released more than 20,000 pounds of lethal gas into DuPont’s insecticide unit in La Porte, TX.

Crystal Rae Wise, the unfortunate worker handling the pipe, was killed along with three other employees – Wade Baker and brothers Gilbert and Robert Tisnado – who heroically rushed to Wise’s aid, but were unable to reach her before succumbing to the gas as well.

‘DuPont did not have proper safety procedures in place’

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) investigated the incident and found 11 violations of safety regulations on the premises. It was also discovered that DuPont had not taught employees how to use the plant’s ventilation system, which was malfunctioning the day of the accident.

“Four people lost their lives and their families lost loved ones because DuPont did not have proper safety procedures in place,” said OSHA leader David Michaels. “Had the company assessed the dangers involved, or trained their employees on what to do if the ventilation system stopped working, they might have had a chance.”

The investigation determined that all four victims would still be alive if DuPont had taken proper safety precautions. Instead, the deceased workers’ families must now face the reality of losing their loved ones to an accident that was easily avoidable.

Six months after the tragedy, OSHA issued to DuPont the maximum penalty for the violations discovered – a fine of just $99,000. For a company with reported earnings of close to $35 billion the previous year, it amounted to little more than a slap on the wrist.  

“It’s painful for us, and we know it’s painful for the families of these workers to see that the fine is only $99,000,” Michaels told the Texas Tribune.

Penalty caps for chemical plant safety violations were implemented by Congress more than 25 years ago, when the buying power of the dollar was roughly twice as much as it is now. Today, it seems unlikely that such relatively small fines would spur DuPont or other companies of its size into reforming policy and conducting strict maintenance on equipment and tools.

“We need to raise the cap,” Michaels said. “Even if the fine were 10 times higher, I’m not sure it would impact DuPont very differently. But it would send the message to other employers.”

A Dangerous Pattern

The tragedy in La Porte was just the latest in a string of major accidents at the plant’s factories in the past five years.

Earlier in 2014, chemicals from a truck at a DuPont plant leaked and exposed workers to toxic gases. Back in 2011, DuPont was hit with a meager $18,000 penalty after 800 pounds of toxic chemicals leaked from a faulty valve in its Beaumont plant.

In 2010, three separate accidents occurred at DuPont plants in West Virginia, according to the U.S. Chemical Safety Board. One of these claimed the life of a plant worker, and all three were reported to have been preventable. This is extremely distressing, and consistent with what OSHA officials found in La Porte.

“Based on what we saw in our inspection, if I were an employer, I would think twice before hiring DuPont to give me advice on safety,” Michaels told the Texas Tribune.

This pattern of fatal mistakes demonstrates a lack of focus on health and safety standards – and perhaps a smoking gun that if companies like DuPont continue to put lives at risk, their qualifications to do business should be examined more closely.

WHO WE ARE

The Scott Hooper Law Firm is a Houston firm with extensive experience handling chemical accident cases. Scott knows how to tackle the complexities of the law to get his clients what they need. If you need legal representation, call him today.

 

 

by Obu
July 31, 2015

10 Motorcycle Safety Tips

motorcycle As a motorcyclist, your head is constantly on a swivel. Biking can be difficult enough on its own, especially for newcomers, but when a misstep by anyone else on the road can land you in the ER or worse, you learn quickly that there’s no such thing as too careful.

Still, any rider knows the thrill is worth the risk, and nothing compares to racing down the highway or even up the street on a bike. It’s tough to imagine ever giving up the freedom and adrenaline rush of riding a motorcycle.

Here are some safety tips to help make sure you never have to.

  1. Don’t Block the Exit

Avoid getting between cars and off-ramps whenever you can. Drivers make last-minute turns – and last-second swerves – into exit lanes all the time. If they’re in a hurry, it might slip their mind to check mirrors and blind spots, and chances are greater they won’t see you.

  1. Eye Spy

Most drivers will telegraph their next move with head or eye movements. If they’re looking to switch lanes, they’ll check their mirrors or turn their heads to the left or right for blind spots – blind spots they may not see you in. Take a glance at their head or eyes to see where they’re thinking of making their next move so you know how to make yours.

  1. Be the Center of Attention

Riding a motorcycle is one time you want everyone to notice you. Make it easy for them by wearing brightly-colored gear, especially helmets and jackets, and ride with your high beams on as much as possible. Position yourself in the lane wherever will make you most visible. For car drivers, seeing you could be saving you.

  1. Unlock

When your brakes lock up, it’s harder to steer and easier to slide and crash. Studies have shown that motorcycles with antilock brakes are 37 percent less likely to be involved in fatal accidents. Anti-lock brakes come standard with many new bikes, and insurance companies may offer a discount on a coverage policy.

  1. Plan Your Escape

Hitting traffic on the road is unavoidable. Position your bike on the left or right side of the car in front of you if movement has slowed to a crawl or standstill. That way you can make a quick exit if necessary, and avoid a possible sandwich between vehicles weighing thousands of pounds more than your bike.

  1. Find Your Bubble

It’s good to have your own space, and there’s usually somewhere on the road you can find it. Gaps in traffic are a motorcyclist’s friend, so ride into them whenever you see an opening. A little more distance between you and the surrounding vehicles could be the difference between a close call and a trip to the hospital — or worse.

  1. Respect the Elements

The best way to stay safe in bad weather is not to ride at all. Still, there are a few things you can do to minimize risk if the call of the wild is just that strong.

If it’s raining, be gentler on the brakes and throttle. Your tires won’t have as much grip on the road and it’ll be a lot easier to start sliding. Try not to ride immediately after rain begins to fall, either. Water can cause oil residue to rise to the surface, and if it hasn’t been raining long the oil will be less diluted when it meets your tires. Bad news.

If there are powerful winds, feel what direction they’re coming from and position your bike on that side of your lane. If a gust pushes you in the other direction, you’ll be less likely to veer into another lane, and possibly into another car.

  1. Don’t Go With the Flow

Constantly riding with the flow of traffic can make you blend in. For a motorcyclist, that could be a nightmare. At times, speed up and slow down to draw attention to yourself and remind drivers there’s a biker in their midst.

  1. Stay on Brake

When things go wrong, the first thing we normally reach for are the brakes. Not being able to find them in time can be a pretty big problem. Always keep one finger on the brake lever and a toe on the rear brake pedal, just in case. Those few seconds you save not fumbling around to find them can save your life.

  1. Keep Your Head

You knew it was coming. Helmets can be a drag, but there’s nothing more likely to stop the fun for good than riding without one. Wearing a helmet dramatically reduces your risk of a brain or spine injury, and when Texas repealed its mandatory helmet laws, motorcycle deaths increased by 31 percent over the next year.

Always wear a helmet. Make sure your riding days end when you decide they do.

Who We Are

The Scott Hooper Law Firm is a Houston firm with extensive experience handling motorcycle accident cases. We’re committed to promoting safe riding so bikers and everyone on the road in Texas makes it home safely.

by Obu
July 15, 2015

Welcome

Welcome to Scott Hooper’s blog on his newly updated website.

In this blog, Scott will pull from his 25 years of experience as an attorney to offer his take on legal issues. He’ll also use this space to keep readers abreast on what’s happening at the firm.

Let’s get started: Continue reading

by Obu
July 28, 2014

Save Over $6,000 on Your New Tesla

Sales Tax Exemption Claims for Tesla Model S in Texas

Texas Sales and Use Tax

The State of Texas levies a 6 ¼% sales and use tax on new and used motor vehicles. The tax applies to both motor vehicles purchased in the state and motor vehicles purchases outside Texas and used on Texas public highways by a Texas resident or someone living in or doing business in Texas. More information on the Comptroller’s website

Texas residents who buy a Model S from Tesla are required to pay the sales and use tax when they register the car and apply for a title in Texas. The payment must be made within the first 30 days after purchase to avoid late payment penalties. Most Tesla owners handle the registration process themselves and pay the sales and use tax, in addition to a little more than $100 in title and registration fees. The sales tax ranges from $4,500 to over $6,000.

Many new Model S owners find the registration process to be a minor inconvenience. Paying the sales and use tax often proves to be the most unpleasant part of the first 30 days of ownership.

Background on this Issue

After being on the waiting list from June 2012, Scott Hooper bought his Model S in March 2013. Like many others on the waiting list, Scott spent the days leading up to his delivery date researching different aspects of the car and reading about other owners’ experiences.

He was disappointed with the lack of support for Tesla in the Texas legislature. Without express tax incentives, HOV waivers or any other public accommodations for battery electric vehicles (BEV), Texas is one of the least BEV friendly states in the country. Worse, the openly hostile Franchise laws make it difficult for Tesla to fairly compete with legacy automobile companies in Texas. Here is a recent article in the Austin Statesman.

Scott set out to see if there were any possible incentives that were not readily apparent that would apply to his Model S.

Sales Tax Exemption

After considerable legal research, Scott determined that there was a potential sales tax exemption that could be applied to the Tesla Model S in Texas. Scott successfully asserted the exemption when he registered his Model S in Texas.

If the sales tax exemption is claimed and accepted by the county tax assessor-collector, the new Model S owner is only required to pay the title and registration fees. The sales tax exemption saves the purchaser $4,500 to $6,000 in sales and use taxes.

Our Services

We have temporarily discontinued our services.  The Harris County Tax Assessor Tax Collector has issued a ruling denying the exemptions.  We hope to challenge this ruling in court.  However, until we obtain a court ruling, we will no longer be able to process Tesla tax exemption applications.

Please contact us with any questions:

By Telephone: (713) 529-5055

E-Mail: shooper@shooperlaw.com

by Obu
June 9, 2014