Sunday, January 4, 2015

The Marquess of Queensberry rules of boxing [with NHTSA]

The Marquess of Queensbury, who published the rules of the sport of boxing.

Sean Kane writes in his Top Ten in 2014 wrap-up of the "best" stories of the year, sarcasm just dripping from his keyboard, as it often does:

4. Good Layers/Bad Lawyers
It is a fact: corporate lawyers are noble defenders of American business. They are decent fellows and good gals, whose word’s an unbreakable bond. The kind of people you can feel at home passing your resume while sharing a cocktail or an automotive defect assessment. By contrast, trial lawyers fatten themselves on the souls of innocents. They are responsible for all of society’s ills, from childhood obesity to the Ebola virus. They cannot be trusted. Nor do upstanding government bureaucrats associate with these misshapen lumps of humanity’s dregs. At least, that’s what The Safety Record has taken away from the agency’s behavior toward lawyers in 2014. It was trial lawyers who showed how Toyota’s unbelievably crappy software could cause an Unintended Acceleration without the engine control module taking note. Has NHTSA done anything with this startling information, given the continued evidence of Toyota UA? Not that we can tell. It was a trial lawyer who revealed the General Motors knew about the now infamous ignition defect for years...NHTSA responded by completely ignoring him. Couldn’t even muster a thanks-for-your-letter-we’ll-look-into-it response. Straight-up rude. Corporate lawyers? They got a presentation at a legal conference for the defense bar in Chicago by NHTSA Chief Counsel O. Kevin Vincent. It started with a feel-good “rah-rah-ree” paean to industry, before Vincent gave his audience the requisite 10 seconds to pick their jaws off the ground after he warned them that NHTSA would no longer tolerate automakers’ dissembling on defects and delaying recalls.  Nothing but the Marquess of Queensberry rules for those guys.

Marquess of Queensberry Rules of Boxing

  1. To be a fair stand-up boxing match in a 24-foot ring, or as near that size as practicable.
  2. No wrestling or hugging allowed.
  3. The rounds to be of three minutes' duration, and one minute's time between rounds.
  4. If either man falls through weakness or otherwise, he must get up unassisted, 10 seconds to be allowed him to do so, the other man meanwhile to return to his corner, and when the fallen man is on his legs the round is to be resumed and continued until the three minutes have expired. If one man fails to come to the scratch in the 10 seconds allowed, it shall be in the power of the referee to give his award in favour of the other man.
  5. A man hanging on the ropes in a helpless state, with his toes off the ground, shall be considered down.
  6. No seconds or any other person to be allowed in the ring during the rounds.
  7. Should the contest be stopped by any unavoidable interference, the referee to name the time and place as soon as possible for finishing the contest; so that the match must be won and lost, unless the backers of both men agree to draw the stakes.
  8. The gloves to be fair-sized boxing gloves of the best quality and new.
  9. Should a glove burst, or come off, it must be replaced to the referee's satisfaction.
  10. A man on one knee is considered down and if struck is entitled to the stakes.
  11. That no shoes or boots with spikes or sprigs be allowed.
  12. The contest in all other respects to be governed by revised London Prize Ring Rules.

What perfect rules prevail for O.K. Vincent and his charming friends in the defense bar, who always playing so fairly...with one another.

I tried again to reach Matthew Weisman, one of the NHTSA attorneys who works for O.K., to ask him whether there is any actual change of real-life policy in regard to the agency's willingness to review safety-related documents claimed as privileged by automakers. In his speech in Chicago, as you may recall it was reported here, O.K. said that NHTSA was not OK with automakers hiding defects behind purported privilege. Now especially that Toyota has admitted that at least 1000 docs here not covered by the court order are also not privileged, that eliminates Matt's previous excuse about why NHTSA would not review them. If NHTSA's official policy is to review privileged docs when they relate to safety defects, all the more they should review non-privileged docs that relate to safety defects. And all the more docs that relate to safety defects that are covered up for years and years, a la Toyota, GM, and Takata. 

I thought it was time to call again.

Well, the secretary announced my call to Matt, and that dear boy would not take my call. And he did not call back. As ever, forever, a pity for US consumers.