A year after you bury your child, a letter arrives. It is from your builder. Get out of the house, it says. There may be some defects.
You learn that other houses have collapsed, other people have died. The builder knew of the danger for years. So you get a lawyer, you go to court, you demand compensation—not that any amount of dollars will bring back the child you have lost. You demand the money because it is the only way you know to punish the builder, and to make sure everyone knows his wrongdoing.
The builder sends his lawyers to the judge, and they tell the judge he is not liable. He isn’t liable, because the fool who used shoddy materials was the old him. He is a new man. He can’t be held responsible for the actions of his past person.
Preposterous, right? Yet this is precisely the argument employed by General Motors in response to numerous lawsuits, in response to at least thirteen deaths from engineering defects that cause its vehicles to lock up, rendering their power steering, brakes, and airbags inoperable. In a recent court filing, GM’s lawyers claimed the engineering mistakes were committed by “the old GM.” They represent, you see, “the new GM.”