En Español

Auto Product Liability: 1993 Oldsmobile Delta 88 Not Crashworthy

Most product liability lawyers will admit that an auto defect is a danger to the vehicles occupants and others on the road. In 1999, 12-year-old Jeffrey Jernigan was riding in the front passenger seat of a 1993 Oldsmobile Delta 88 driven by his older teenage brother. When they were struck head on by another vehicle, the Oldsmobile's passenger compartment collapsed in on Jeffrey, who was wearing his seatbelt. He suffered such severe head and brain injuries that a frontal lobotomy was necessary to save his life.

Jeffrey was a bright straight-A student who had earlier tested in the 99th percentile. After his lobotomy, his intelligence fell far below normal. He also lost any sense of danger-- if left unattended for even a moment--he will wander off, even into oncoming traffic.

The Jernigans sued General Motors. Their product liability attorneys claimed that GM had built a flimsy vehicle to cut costs at the expense of consumer safety. They alleged that the Delta 88's passenger compartment offered Jeffrey no protection upon impact. Both cars were traveling at between 35 and 40 mph with a total impact force of 70 to 80 mph.

GM argued that the total impact force was 100 mph and that no car on the road could have withstood such a car collision. They contended that driver error, not the car's design flaw, was the sole cause of the boy's injuries.

"It appears that obfuscation was the modus operandi in the particular case," noted nationally recognized defective product attorney John Bisnar. "At first, GM engineers claimed that their "vehicle enhancement programs" were designed to reduce noise and vibration. Another engineer referred to GM's program as a vehicle weight reduction effort. After considerable discovery efforts, and confronted with their own contradictions, GM engineers finally admitted that management redesign mandates were imposed to cut manufacturing costs at the expense of safety. This included replacing the car doors' thick, wide steel reinforcement beam with a little pipe that was 46 percent lighter than the original beam. Also damaging to GM was an internal memo stating that Ford's frame designs were "five times stronger than ours."

When jurors saw the two cars that had been involved in the car accident, they were convinced the Delta 88 was uncrashworthy. The other car--a Pontiac Grand Prix, also made by GM--was lighter than the Delta 88, but it retained every safety feature that had been removed from the Oldsmobile. Parked side-by-side, jurors could easily see that the Pontiac's passenger compartment had survived the car collision without any difficulty.

GM offered $8 million to settle, and then later suggested $10 million. After a short, one week trial, the jury found GM liable. It awarded $20 million in compensatory damages for Jeffrey ($9.7 for 'life' care; the remainder for mental anguish, pain and suffering, emotional distress, projected over a 60-year life expectancy), $2 million in compensatory damages for his father (for medical expenses, pain and suffering, and the loss of Jeffrey's companionship), and $60 million for punitive damages.

"Amidst their tragic circumstance, the Jernigans found the courage to confront a huge car maker and hold them accountable for designing an uncrashworthy automobile," said Brian Chase of the nationally recognized auto product liability law firm Bisnar Chase Personal Injury Attorneys. "The Jernigans are to be commended, for their efforts may spare other parents from suffering the same fate. Our hope is that this lawsuit and the many lawsuits we have filed against GM will motivate car makers to consider the safety of the passengers in their vehicles and not just their profit margin. Isn't it ironic that the same company who put profit over people in this case, asked the people of America to bail them out with billions of dollars in loans?"

If you or a loved one has suffered serious injuries as the result of a defective auto part or vehicle, contact the experienced California auto products liability attorneys at Bisnar Chase Personal Injury Attorneys for a free consultation. We will use our extensive knowledge and resources to achieve the best possible results for you and your family.

Have a question that wasn't answered here?

(800) 561-4887

Was This Page Helpful? Yes | No

Client Reviews of Bisnar Chase

“I don’t even know where to start, because I really wanted to write this recommendation even if there was no star or rating to be given! My daughter and I were in a bad car accident in 2011. She received a broke jaw, broken pelvic, broken arm, and a ruptured ear drum. I prayed to the lord while I was in ICU to guide me and send me to the right attorney that would help me and my daughter and not just look at us as a monetary opportunity. After much research I choose Bisnar Chase.
After spending 2 months in the ICU, we were in a long recovery process. Learning to walk, to eat due to wire shut for months! Back to the basic all over again… 4 years later it just came to an end! I tell you I have 2 different paralegals assisting me but Colleen Cadogan was the best I had this past year… This lady, emailed me, called me, send me words of encouragement almost every week! When I least expect it and I had a horrible day or had many questions and concerns she was there! As the paralegal doing her job, but also as a human being, a mother, a wife….just genuinely concern for my daughter and I. As the case came to a close….I will always remember the team of professionals and I would recommended Bisnar Chase to anyone….and be patient, patience”

by Maria Vasquez

reviewed at Google+

“I could not recommend Bisnar & Chase highly enough! Now, I must be forthcoming and tell you that I am writing this review on behalf of my wonderful mother. You see, she's a mom, and therefor [sic] by nature is completely unable to do even the most simple of tasks on the internet. Like writing a a Yelp review. But we all love our moms don't we? Yes. We all love our moms (except Charles Manson), and would do anything to make sure they are protected and well taken care of. Upon referral from my mother's coworker, we contacted Bisnar & Chase. They had done a great job in this previous case and were located extremely close to both UCI and home, which made stopping by their office very convenient for my Mom. My Mom had been in an auto accident, nothing crazy but not a mere fender bender, and suffered what we thought to be some minor whiplash. Months later this was definitely not the case. Her client experience with the associates at Bisnar & Chase was so impressive that she raved to me about every time she heard anything from them. How thorough they were. How they listened better than I did (or something to that effect). How she liked Shannon and Mr. Bisnar and felt that they really had her best interests at heart. I honestly couldn't get her to shut up about them. But as a daughter that last part was all that I needed to hear to know that I we had found the right people and I could sleep easy at night knowing my Mom was in good hands. The Bisnar & Chase team really went above and beyond my family's expectations. And for that I am extremely grateful. If you live in the Newport Beach/Irvine/Costa Mesa/General Orange County area I would highly recommend Bisnar & Chase to both friends, and family.”

by Chelsea C.

reviewed at Yelp

“While my wrongful death case is still being decided I really love how this firm cares for the people they represent I feel so much better after talking with Doug on a monthly basis he reassures me things will be okay. Looking for to ending this real soon but I am very thankful to Bisnar and Chase for all they do!”

by Karla Hawley

reviewed at Facebook

See All Ratings And Awards

The BISNAR CHASE Difference

  • “I was in a serious auto accident when I was in law school. I had to hire a personal injury attorney and had a really bad experience.”

    John Bisnar

    on what made him want to become a personal injury attorney

  • “If you hire Bisnar | Chase and we don't recover money for you in your case, you owe us absolutely nothing.”

    Brian Chase

    on whether or not you would owe money if your case was lost

  • “Whatever the philosphy of the management is, is going to be carried through by the employees and it’s going to reflect on the experience the clients have.”

    John Bisnar

    on his philosophy on running a law firm

  • “The insurance companies are going to be investigating that accident the day it happens. You need to have a lawyer on your side the day it happens as well.”

    Brian Chase

    on when you should contact an attorney

  • “The first thing we want to do with our clients is to relieve the stress. Make them feel comfortable. Treat them as an honored guest.”

    John Bisnar

    on how he would define superior client representation

  • “It's hard to answer that question right up front without a thorough analysis. What I can guarantee you is, with the resources of Bisnar | Chase we will maximize the value of your case.”

    Brian Chase

    on what your case is worth

Bisnar Chase Personal Injury Attorneys
1301 Dove St #120
Newport Beach, CA 92660

local: (949) 203-3814
Get Directions

California Personal Injury Blog