A judge in Van Zandt County, Texas, ruled on November 24, 2014, that a woman that previously pleaded guilty to criminally negligent homicide in the traffic death of her fiancé was not in fact responsible. Instead, materials provided to the court by attorneys for General Motors pointed to a faulty ignition switch as an alleged cause of the crash.
Case Discussed During July Senate Hearing
The case had garnered attention across the country when it was described as a “perversion of the judicial process” by Senator Richard Blumemthal of Connecticut during Senate hearings in July of 2014 regarding allegedly faulty GM ignition switches.
Initial Criminal Charge for Driver
On November 15, 2004, the woman, then 21 years old, inexplicably lost control of her Saturn Ion. The vehicle ran off the road and into a tree. She suffered a lacerated liver, and her fiancé was killed. The woman was arrested and charged with criminally negligent homicide. To try to help their daughter, her parents drained a 401k account to pay a lawyer, according to a report in the New York Times. Eventually, in 2007, she accepted a plea deal that resulted in a sentence of five years probation and the payment of approximately $10,000 worth of fines and restitution payments.
Details of GM Internal Review Surface
It was subsequently discovered that an internal review by General Motors had pointed to an ignition switch problem as the alleged cause of the fatal event. Furthermore, it was determined that this internal review had been completed five months before the motorist entered into a plea deal. It was reported by the New York Times that General Motors allegedly did not disclose the information to law enforcement or prosecutors associated with the case.
In another case, the same faulty ignition switch may have been responsible for the crash of a 2006 Cobalt that led to the passenger’s death and the driver’s imprisonment for six months. The family of the victim has filed suit against General Motors for their handling of this issue.
At present, a total of approximately three dozen fatalities have been linked to allegedly faulty GM ignition switches. An ignition that shuts down can, unexpectedly, cut power to the wheels, the power steering and the power brakes. Needless to say, this can make it difficult for a driver to maintain control of the vehicle. Some lawsuits have previously been filed when injury or loss of life was allegedly linked to GM ignition switches.
If you or someone that you know has been involved in an accident that may have been caused by a faulty ignition switch or other defective part, state law does preserve your right to seek compensation for unpaid medical bills, pain and suffering, and lost wages. To speak with a car accident lawyer about your case, please contact us. A consultation can be provided without cost or obligation.