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Woman Cleared in Crash Death Tied to Faulty GM Ignition Switch

Dec 1, 2014

A woman who pleaded guilty to criminally negligent homicide in a car crash that killed her boyfriend was recently cleared of the charges. The death has been linked to the faulty ignition switch in the woman’s Saturn Ion.

In the crash, which happened 10 years ago, the woman inexplicably lost control of the car, which crashed into a tree, killing her boyfriend, who was her passenger, the New York Times reports. The Saturn Ion was among the cars equipped with the defective switch, which can unexpectedly move out of the “run” position, causing a loss of power, which disables power brakes, power steering and air bags. At least 35 deaths have been linked to the defect, which GM did not report to safety regulators for more than a decade.

The Times reports that five months before the guilty plea, GM’s internal review of the crash determined that the ignition switch problem was to blame, but GM never notified either the driver or law enforcement officials. Under the plea deal, the woman served five years probation and paid more than $10,000 in fines and restitution. She herself suffered serious injuries in the accident, including a lacerated liver.

In June 2007, the automaker told the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration that it had not assessed the cause of the crash but it actually had. In May 2007, a GM engineer found that power to the vehicle had most likely shut off. The district attorney who prosecuted the case said details of the accident – like the lack of skid marks – would have been viewed differently if the ignition-switch defect had been publicly known at the time.

General Motors did not initiate a recall of cars with the defective ignition switches until early this year, ten years after it knew of the problem. The automaker has been under investigation by Congress and a number of federal agencies, and is under criminal investigation. Numerous lawsuits have been filed over injuries and deaths. GM set up a compensation fund for the families of people killed in crashes tied to the defective ignition and for people injured in such crashes, the Times reports.

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