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Brett Emison
Brett Emison
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Texas Woman Cleared in Defective GM Ignition Switch Death

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General MotorsA Texas woman has finally been cleared of criminal wrongdoing in the death of her boyfriend more than 10 years ago after General Motors acknowledged the death as one of at last 35 deaths caused by GM’s defective ignition switch.  The defect can cause drivers to lose control of the vehicle and disables the air bags in a crash.

GM knew about the defect years before this crash, but did nothing to notify its owners, its drivers, or authorities of the deadly safety problem.

Candice Anderson, the driver, was led to believe she was at fault for the crash that killed her boyfriend and father of 2.  Ultimately, Anderson pleaded guilty to criminally negligent homicide in Texas.  She has been tormented with guilt ever since the crash.

“The emotional guilt – all these years.  You know, it’s been a question if I was at fault for his death, and I’ve carried for so long,” she said.

Five months before Anderson’s guilty plea, General Motors conducted an internal analysis of the crash and determined its car was to blame.  GM never told Anderson or law enforcement.

Instead, Anderson’s parents were forced to empty their 401(k) to hire a criminal defense lawyer to represent her.  She entered a plea deal that avoided jail time, but left her with a conviction, 5 years on probation, and thousands of dollars in fines and restitution.

At a congressional hearing in July, Senator Richard Blumenthal [D-Conn.], called Ms. Anderson’s indictment “a perversion of the justice process,” and asked [GM CEO Mary] Barra and Michael P. Millikin, GM’s top lawyer, to contact Gov. Rick Perry of Texas to urge a pardon for Ms. Anderson.  Both declined although they offered to submit “evidence to support” Ms. Anderson’s exoneration.

On Monday, Mr. Blumenthal praised the ruling.  “Her plight demonstrates just how far the consequences of General Motors’ concealment go,” he said, “hurting not just direct victims of defective cars but also those who were blamed for the accidents even when GM knew full well what the cause had been.

Ms. Anderson said she still had not heard from GM directly.

- Rebecca R. Ruiz at The New York Times

The Ignition Switch Defect

The defect involves the ignition switch in millions of GM vehicles.  The defective ignition switch allows the keys to turn the vehicle from the “on” position to either the “accessory” or “off” position.  When this occurs, the driver loses power steering and power braking and may lose control of the vehicle.  Making matters worse, the air bags are also deactivated and will not fire in the resulting crash.

GM knew about the defect not later than 2001, but did nothing to notify the public or safety experts until this year.  GM CEO, Mary Barra, has acknowledged that “terrible things happened” at GM.

GM Ignition Timeline

GM Has Acknowledged More Than 30 Deaths From Ignition Switch Defect

GM has acknowledged more than 30 deaths from the ignition switch defect.  The company has established a voluntary settlement program overseen by Kenneth Feinberg.  The Feinberg settlement fund is set to close to new applications on December 31 – potentially leaving millions of victims unable to receive compensation without filing a lawsuit.  Feinberg announced yesterday this deadline would be extended by one month.  GM is sending 850,000 letters to newly registered owners to notify them of the program.  These – and other GM owners – will have until January 31, 2015 to register for the Feinberg settlement program.

However, GM’s voluntary settlement program may be inadequate for many.  A report last week found that just 15% of claims to the program had been acknowledged, with more than half of the claims scheduled to be rejected.

GM Ignition Cases Filed and Consolidated in St. Louis, Missouri

st. louis arch

Langdon & Emison has filed a number of GM ignition switch cases in Missouri state court.  These cases have not been removed to federal court by General Motors and have not been consolidated with the federal court MDL.

These cases have been joined together in the City of St. Louis under Missouri’s permissive joinder rules.  Through the combined cases, our clients can benefit from a more efficient litigation process.  The permissive joinder rules allows for consolidation of both in-state and out-of-state claims involving GM ignition switch defects.

Landgon &  Emison continues to investigate GM ignition switch claims and we frequently work with referring lawyers across the country.  Contact us for a free evaluation of your case.

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© Copyright 2014 Brett A. Emison

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