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Lawsuits Links GM Ignition Defect to Fatal Accident

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Jarod Cassidy4 years ago

General Motors Co. has settled a lawsuit in which a young woman’s death was attributed to a vehicle defect that allowed the ignition switch of her Chevy Cobalt to move out of the “run” position while the car was in motion resulting in a fatal collision.

About the Fatal Chevy Cobalt Accident

According to USA Today, pediatric nurse Brooke Melton died in 2010 on her 29th birthday when she lost control of her car, skidded and was struck by another vehicle while on the way to her boyfriend’s house.

Investigators determined that Melton was wearing her safety belt and was traveling within the speed limit along the two-lane State Route 92 in Paulding County, Georgia – roughly 30 miles from Atlanta – at the time of the collision.

Police were also able to determine that the air bag in Melton’s 2005 Cobalt had failed to deploy and, through data pulled from the car’s “black box,” the vehicles ignition switch had moved from “run” to “accessory” seconds before the fatal collision.

In addition to Melton’s death, several people in the other car suffered significant injury as a result of the accident.

Fatal Accident Linked to Vehicle Defect

According to depositions in a lawsuit filed against GM, the manufacturer was aware of incidents in which ignition switches in its Chevy Cobalts had inadvertently moved out of the “run” position as early as 2004.

In fact, at least one GM engineer experienced the defect while testing a 2005 model when the vehicle’s engine unexpectedly shut off – such a stall results in the driver losing power steering and power brakes, while also cutting off multiple safety features like air bags and anti-lock brakes.

GM soon determined that “jarring events” as simple as a bumpy road or a heavy key ring could force the ignition switch to move to “accessory” or “off” while the vehicle was in operation; however, rather than recall the vehicles, the company instead opted to issue technical service bulletins to dealers requesting that they “fix” the issue.

The proposed “fix” was a snap-on key cover developed by GM to counteract the ignition switch issue – a “fix” Melton never received despite taking her car to the dealer for ignition switch problems. Melton had picked up her car the day before her death.

GM settled a lawsuit filed by Melton’s estate out of court for an undisclosed amount – a lawsuit is ongoing.

GM finally decided to recall the vehicle along with six other models in February 2014.


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