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GM and Chrysler

When General Motors Corp. and Chrysler filed for bankruptcy last year to wipe their financial slates clean, they also swept product liability claims under the rug.

After the two troubled automakers emerged from bankruptcy as the "new" Chrysler and GM, they were off the hook for compensating claims totaling nearly $2 billion made prior to the bankruptcies. Those victims became unsecured creditors, limited to getting paid out of the bankrupt companies' negligible assets.

Both auto giants initially tried to also free themselves from future claims involving cars manufactured by their "old" companies, but consumer advocate groups hit the roof. GM backed down and agreed to assume legal responsibility for "old" vehicle defects prior to finalizing its bankruptcy, while Chrysler made the switch two months after settling in court.

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