General Motors Co. is facing what is believed to be its first wrongful death lawsuit over faulty ignition switch since it recalled 1.6 million vehicles last month. The lawsuit was filed against GM on March 22, 2014 in Minnesota state court on behalf of three teenage girls who were severely injured or killed in a 2006 crash that involved a 2005 Chevy Cobalt.
The car was one of the models GM recalled last month over ignition switch hitches. GM issued the recall in February but was already aware of the ignition switch issues as early as 2001 and issued related service bulletins to dealers with suggested remedies in 2005.
The Minnesota lawsuit claims that GM knows the defect for a decade but failed to take steps to fix the vehicles or take them off the roads. "GM hid this dangerous, life-threatening defect from my clients and all other Cobalt drivers for over a decade just to avoid the cost of a recall," said a lawyer for the families, Robert Hilliard of Hilliard Munoz Gonzales, in a statement. "GM is guilty of betraying our trust." According to the lawsuit, the Cobalt's ignition switch suddenly turned from the "run" to "accessory" position, thereby causing the steering, breaking and airbag systems to lose power.
The driver of the Cobalt, Megan Phillips, 19, lost control of the vehicle, which traversed off the road and struck a telephone junction box and two trees. According to the lawsuit, Philips sustained severe injuries to her brain and body, while passengers Amy Rademaker, 15, and Natasha Weigel, 18, met untimely death.
The surviving family members of the three teenagers are each seeking more than $50,000, according Hilliard. Jim Cain, a spokesman for GM, said the carmaker would respond to the lawsuit in due course. "Right now, our biggest focus is on getting these vehicles recalled as quickly as we can with as little inconvenience to customers as possible." [source: Reuters]