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Auto safety pioneer to speak about GM ignition switch issue April 2 at Wayne Law

March 18, 2014

DETROIT – Joan Claybrook, who issued the first standards requiring airbags in automobiles, will talk about General Motors Co.’s current safety problems with ignition switches Wednesday, April 2, at Wayne State University Law School.

Claybrook’s presentation – “GM and NHTSA: Who is Covering for Whom?” – also will address the failure of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to demand a recall against the historic backdrop of the role of politics in auto safety.

The lecture, free and open to the public, is scheduled from 12:15 to 1:15 p.m. in the Spencer M. Partrich Auditorium at the law school, 471 W. Palmer St. Lunch will be provided. Parking will be available for $6.50 (credit and debit cards only) in Structure One across West Palmer Street from the law school.

Claybrook’s presentation serves as the second installment of the annual Dean A. Robb Public Interest Lecture Series, which is presented by Wayne Law’s Damon J. Keith Center for Civil Rights. The series is intended to inspire law students, attorneys, public-interest groups and everyday citizens to become more active in public service and public-interest law.

The series is made possible by the Royal Oak law firm of Pitt McGehee Palmer Rivers & Golden PC and supported by the Public Justice Foundation. Michael Pitt, Wayne Law class of 1974, is managing partner of the firm. The series honors Robb, a 1949 Wayne Law alumnus, noted civil rights attorney and social activist.

Claybrook, sometimes called the “consumer crusader,” was president of Public Citizen from 1982 to 2009 and still serves on the organization’s board. As head of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration for four years before she joined Public Citizen, Claybrook issued the first standards requiring airbags in all passenger vehicles and the nation’s first fuel-economy laws.

She has spoken out publicly about how research and data supporting safety measures often have been countered by political pressure on lawmakers.

Claybrook is the recipient of several honorary doctorate degrees for her decades of crusading work in the interest of public safety, and numerous awards, including the Philip Hart Distinguished Consumer Service Award from the Consumer Federation of America and the 2012 Community Hero Award from the Johns Hopkins Center for Injury Research and Policy.

Claybrook earned her law degree from Georgetown University Law Center and serves on its Board of Visitors and with numerous civic groups.

For more details, call (313) 577-3620.

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