New Lawsuit in Death Blamed on General Motors Ignition Switch Defect

The father of an Alabama woman who died last year in a car crash in her 2006 Chevrolet Cobalt has filed a lawsuit blaming the crash on a defective ignition switch. The defect is the cause of General Motors’ recent recall of more than 1.6 million vehicles.

Thirty-two-year old Aubrey Williams was killed on December 4 when she lost control of her 2006 Chevrolet Cobalt on an Alabama highway. Her car crossed into the opposing lane and collided with an 18-wheeler, the National Law Journal reports. The attorney representing Steve Smith, Williams’s father, blamed her death on the ignition switch’s failure, which caused the vehicle to lose power. GM has acknowledged that the switch defect is linked to 31 crashes and at least 12 deaths: lawmakers and regulators want to know why it took the company more than a decade to reveal the problem and initiate a recall.

Smith’s lawsuit asserts general negligence claims and product liability under Alabama law. In addition to GM, the suit names auto parts makers that produced and sold parts to GM; the dealership that sold Williams the used Cobalt; and a Chevrolet dealership that performed maintenance on the vehicle about a year before the accident, according to National Law Journal.

Last month GM recalled more than 1.6 million vehicles worldwide over the ignition-switch defect, which can cause the engine to suddenly shut off, preventing air bags from deploying in a crash. The recall includes the 2005-7 Cobalt, 2007 Pontiac G5; 2003-7 Saturn Ion; 2006-7 Chevrolet HHR and Pontiac Solstice; and the 2007 Saturn Sky, according to The New York Times.

GM already faces several class actions filed on behalf of consumers, the latest of which was filed on Monday in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. That suit claims the recall is insufficient because the entire key system should have been redesigned, according to National Law Journal.

GM’s actions – or inaction – are the focus of a number of investigations. The Justice Department recently opened a criminal investigation. GM must respond, under oath, by April 3, to 107 questions about the defect and the recall from the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA), the Times reports. Both branches of Congress will hold hearings into GM’s handling of the problem, in particular why it took GM more than a decade to reveal the problem and recall the cars. Sen. Richard Blumenthal has written to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to urge that GM be required to set up a compensation fund for owners of the defective cars who have suffered death, injuries, or damage, National Public Radio reports.





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