PA Judge reverses manslaughter conviction due to faulty GM ignition switch

An Allegheny County Pennsylvania judge recently reversed the involuntary manslaughter conviction of a woman after it was determined that the crash in which she was involved in 2010 was caused by a faulty General Motors ignition switch.

The woman’s Chevy Cobalt crashed into a school bus near Pittsburgh, killing her teenage passenger. She was driving 75 mph in a 35 mph zone when the crash occurred. Just last year, GM recalled 2.6 million cars due to faulty ignition switches. The switches could easily and accidentally be moved out of the on position, causing the vehicles to stall and disabling power steering, brakes, and airbags.

According to published reports, the attorney representing the woman said that the car’s data recorder showed that although she was driving 75 mph hour 5 seconds before the crash, she was only traveling 35 mph 3 seconds later. The attorney said when she swerved to avoid the bus, the ignition switch moved, disabling her power steering, brakes, and airbags. The attorney further argued that the airbags alone would have saved the young passengers life.

This reversal in conviction came as the death toll in crashes related to the GM ignition switch failure rose significantly. Fortune Magazine reported that there were ten times more deaths linked to the faulty ignition switch than first reported by GM. Kenneth Feinberg, who handled the GM ignition switch compensation cases rejected 91% of the claims filed. According to Fortune, of the 399 eligible claims, 124 were fatalities and 17 were victims with severe physical injuries that resulted in quadriplegia, paraplegia, double amputation, permanent brain damage or serious burns. Previously GM said it only knew of 13 deaths. Feinberg has also determined that GM is liable for 275 injuries as the result of the ignition switch failure. Although ignition switch problems in GM vehicles were first discovered in 2001, widespread recalls were not done until just last year.

GM could be facing charges for failing to disclose the ignition switch problem and also making false statements regarding it. The U.S. Department of Justice is currently investigating whether GM should be found guilty of criminal wrongdoing.

GM’s voluntary compensation fund was set up to award $1 million for victims who were killed, $300,000 for deceased victim’s spouse and $300,000 for each surviving dependent. For injured victims, GM is offering $20,000 to $500,000 for injuries, depending on how long they were hospitalized. Anyone who accepts a payout through the Fund is required to sign a release of all present, past and future claims against GM and all other potential defendants related to the ignition switch problem.

In news related to the ignition switch issue, Bloomberg Business reported in its publication that ten of the world’s largest automakers were sued over claims that although they failed to fix keyless ignitions lacking automatic shutoffs. According to the complaint filed recently in Los Angeles federal court, the automakers concealed the risks of carbon monoxide poisoning in vehicles with keyless ignitions.

Public safety should be a top priority with automakers. GM and other automakers need to be held accountable when failing to act quickly and fix problems that could help save innocent lives. If you or a loved one has been injured in a car crash or crash related to a faulty GM ignition switch, call the trial lawyers at Fellerman & Ciarimboli today for a free consultation. Call 215-575-9237 for our Philadelphia office or 570-714-HURT for our Scranton & Wilkes-Barre offices.

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With more than 40 years of combined experience, the personal injury attorneys at Fellerman & Ciarimboli strive to provide the best service to clients in Philadelphia, Northeast Pennsylvania, and throughout the Keystone State.

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