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Jury Finds GM Ignition Switch Not Responsible in Fatal Car Accident

In a recent high profile case, plaintiffs in Texas argued that a faulty ignition switch manufactured by General Motors (GM) was ultimately responsible for a fatal car accident that occurred in 2011.  In that accident, the driver of another vehicle was killed and a passenger suffered a severe personal injury according to a recent news feature from the Boston Herald.

engine-start-button-1241470Specifically, plaintiffs assert that the allegedly defective ignition switch on driver’s Saturn Sky turned off by itself while the car in motion, and this caused him to lose control of his vehicle.  The reason they argued is that in modern vehicles, once the power is shut off, nothing works, as the steering is hydraulic and computer-controlled, as are the brakes. The driver suffered a fractured skull and traumatic brain injury (TBI) as a result of this fatal car accident.

The issue of the faulty switch in GM vehicles has come up before, as it was a flip switch and not a key, as this vehicle had a keyless ignition system that is more common on cars these days.  Once the switch flipped to the off position, even the airbags would shut off, since they are designed not to be deployed if a car is hit while it is parked and off, since airbags cost over $1,000 to reset following a deployment in many cases.   As our Boston car accident lawyers are aware, GM has full knowledge of this issue, and the company claims it has corrected the problem, so this won’t happen in the future.

One of the issues that caused problems for the plaintiffs in this case was that the alleged at-fault driver was speeding at the time of the crash.  There was no doubt on this point, since the plaintiff did not deny this allegation.  There was also an issue with the road conditions that night being slick from the rain.  Essentially, the defense argued that it was not the switch that caused the accident, but the fact that the decedent was driving in a reckless manner on a wet road and speeding, and that is why he lost control of vehicle and was severely injured.

As for the defective switch, the jury got to see a GM executive in a recorded deposition saying that, at first, the company did not properly classify the ignition switch as a safety issue, and they classified it as a customer satisfaction issue.  In other words, they felt that if the entire car turns off while driving, its not a safety concern, but just means customers will get upset and that is enough to justify a recall.  It should be noted that, although plaintiff was originally charged with the crime of manslaughter, prosecutors later dropped the charges when they learned of the faulty ignition switch.  Eventually, GM recalled 2.6 million cars with the faulty switch, but in this case, the jury returned a verdict for the car maker in around two hours after finding his negligent driving was a major cause of the accident.

If you are injured in an accident in Massachusetts, call the Law Offices of Jeffrey S. Glassman for a free and confidential appointment — 1-888-367-2900.

Additional Resources:

Jury: GM car’s ignition switch not to blame in fatal crash, August 24, 2016, Associated Press, Boston Herald

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Boy Survives Internal Decapitation in Car Accident, June 21, 2016, Boston Drunk Driving Accident Lawyer Blog