For more than a decade, General Motors kept secret an ignition switch defect in its cars that reports have linked to numerous fatalities. GM has now recalled 13.5 million cars this year. A bipartisan bill has been recently introduced in Congress aimed at making it more difficult for corporations to keep court documents secret in product-liability litigation.
The Sunshine Litigation Act of 2014, introduced by Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), would, for example, bar a court from enforcing any settlement provision that restricts parties from disclosing public health or safety information to a government agency, state or federal, that has authority to enforce consumer regulations.
In a press statement about the bill, Sen. Blumenthal said, “Too often in product liability cases, victims are pressured to pay for a settlement with their silence, even when public interest outweighs corporate confidentiality. The Sunshine in Litigation Act will ensure that courts permit sunshine when product liability cases involve information vital to public health and safety. Concealment can kill, and so can secret settlements.”