Evans parents say GM knew of defect in daughter's car

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ATLANTA — Parents of a Georgia teenager who suffered a severe brain injury in a 2009 car crash say General Motors knew of a defect in her car but took steps to conceal it.

In a federal lawsuit filed Friday in U.S. District Court, Alexina and William Van Pelt of Evans say a defective key system in their daughter Haley’s 2003 Saturn Ion caused the key to move from the “run” to “accessory/off” position, shutting the engine off and causing her to lose control and smash into a tree.

The lawsuit adds that Haley has incurred more than $1 million in medical bills.

Ignition switch defects are at the center of a congressional subcommittee’s investigation into how GM handled safety issues.

GM has admitted knowing about the switch problem for more than a decade but failed to recall the cars until February.

“More than eight years before Haley’s injuries, GM knew about the safety-related defects in the Saturn Ion, and did nothing to recall or fully remedy the defects or warn users about them,” the lawsuit said.

“Rather, GM intentionally, purposely, fraudulently, and systematically concealed the defects from Haley, the Van Pelts, the National Highway Safety Administration, and the driving public.”

GM says a heavy key ring or jarring from rough roads can cause the ignition switch to move out of the “run” position and shut off the engine and electrical power. That can knock out power-assisted brakes and steering and disable the front air bags.

In Haley’s crash, the airbags failed to deploy when she hit the tree, the lawsuit said.

The lawsuit cited several similar deadly crashes involving faulty key switches in GM’s Chevy Cobalts: Brooke Melton was driving her 2005 Cobalt on a two-lane highway in Paulding County, northwest of Atlanta, when her key moved from the run position to “accessory/off,” causing her engine to shut off, the lawsuit said. Her car veered into another lane, and she was killed by an oncoming car.

GM CEO Mary Barra has said that she only become aware of the ignition switch issues in December.

She has distanced herself from GM’s slow action on safety issues in the past, saying she’s trying to install a culture that is focused on consumer protection.

GM has said that it is deeply sorry for the losses suffered by its customers and that it will work to regain their trust.

“Ensuring our customers’ safety is our first order of business,” GM North America President Alan Batey said in a statement earlier this year. “We are deeply sorry and we are working to address this issue as quickly as we can.”

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itsanotherday1
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itsanotherday1 04/12/14 - 11:36 pm
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This sounds like legitimate

This sounds like legitimate liability. I hope GM has to pay and then some. It would be different if they had not recognized the problem; but they did, and tried to gloss it over.

whyme
1808
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whyme 04/13/14 - 12:52 am
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tragic

These are some good people who have been through a lot with this young lady in regards to all of her needs, and yet they have remained prayerful and inspirational. Did not know of the cause of the accident-of course, as usual, people speculate, which is inappropriate-but they deserve all of the recompense that is due them. No one should have to have their lives and that of their child's changed in such a way, and yet this family has relied on their faith and shared their hearts with so many. God bless them.

geecheeriverman
2426
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geecheeriverman 04/13/14 - 06:26 am
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Good Luck

A sad story, but I think the line would be long with people suing for a gross error in judgment by the GM people. GM should be held accountable, and anyone that can claim harm by this defect should be compensated to the fullest extent possible.

Fiat_Lux
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Fiat_Lux 04/13/14 - 02:45 pm
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GM may be going away for good after all.

Every bit of the taxpayer bail-out and then some will go to pay off the lawsuits on this.

Somebody absolutely should go to prison for malfeasance on this, maybe even for manslaughter, and it sure isn't the newbies who had nothing to do with letting this treachery against the public slide for more than a decade.

corgimom
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corgimom 04/13/14 - 04:25 pm
1
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I had a Ford Escort that did

I had a Ford Escort that did the same thing.

So you know what I did? I took off the extra stuff off of my keyring.

And then it never happened again.

corgimom
32412
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corgimom 04/13/14 - 04:26 pm
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3
But how does having an engine

But how does having an engine shut off cause somebody to run off the road and into a tree?

KSL
129497
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KSL 04/13/14 - 06:52 pm
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An inexperienced driver who

An inexperienced driver who is used to power steering and breaks very likely would panic.

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