A Houston-area woman who lost her legs and broke her neck in a December auto crash filed suit against General Motors on April 8. Thirty-year-old Tiffany Adams claims her GM car’s faulty ignition switch caused her accident.
Ms. Adams filed her suit in Texas’ 189th State District Court. The suit names as responsible parties General Motors, Delphi Automotive, which manufactured the ignition switch, and Ms. Adams’ Houston car dealer, Mac Haik Auto Direct.
The lawsuit states that the component required to fix the ignition-switch defect costs between two and five dollars, according to Delphi.
Ignition Switch Failed
Ms. Adams was driving in Polk County on U.S. 59 northbound when the accident occurred. According to the lawsuit petition, the defective ignition switch caused Ms. Adams’ 2007 Pontiac Solstice to spin out of control. The car then hit a tree, while the defective switch then also prevented the car’s airbags from deploying.
Ms. Adams suffered a broken neck, broken ribs and leg injuries so severe that they both required amputation. Her injuries then necessitated the Sam Houston State University graduate to move back into her parents’ Lufkin home.
Recall arrived too late
Roughly two months after the accident, Ms. Adams received a letter which said her 2007 Pontiac Solstice was among several autos being recalled.
The Houston Chronicle reported that the letter stated: “Until the recall repairs have been performed, it is very important that you remove all items from your key ring, leaving only the vehicle key. The key fob (if applicable), should also be removed from your key ring.”
The recall letter further explained that under certain conditions there was a risk that the ignition switch could move out of the “run” position and cause a partial loss of electrical power and even shut down the engine entirely.
The warning included language that added weight on the key ring or extra keys on a key fob coupled with “rough road conditions or other jarring or impact-related events” could cause power loss and the subsequent problems.
More pointedly and disturbingly for Ms. Adams, the letter included this warning: “If the ignition switch is not in the run position, the air bags may not deploy if the vehicle is involved in a crash, increasing the risk of injury or fatality.” If the airbags had properly deployed, Ms. Adams might not have lost her legs or broken her neck.
Texas Woman sues GM for Tragic Crash
The lawsuit states that the ignition switch recalled is a simple and inexpensive part, and that replacement switches have a longer spring than the defective switches. The longer spring produces more more tension, the petition states, which makes them safer.
The petition states: “The weak tension of the shorter spring is believed to be the reason why ignition keys in the cars would easily switch from the ‘on’ position to the ‘accessory’ position if jostled.”
Thee lawsuit further states that the location of the “ignition module” allows a driver to inadvertently switch the position from “run” (or “on”) to “off” or “accessory.”
The lawsuit explains that in addition to preventing airbag deployment, an ignition-switch failure also turns off the engine, power steering and anti-lock brakes.
At least 13 Deaths from Defect
General Motors has acknowledged that the defect has caused at least 13 deaths. Nevertheless, the company has refused to disclose the identities of people who have died because of the defective switches, says the petition.
General Motors’ engineers knew of the ignition problem as early as 2001, the lawsuit contends, during pre-production of the 2003 Saturn Ion (four years before Ms. Adams car was produced). Engineers knew in 2001 that the ignition switch could inadvertently move from the “run” position to “accessory,” yet GM failed to disclose the problem.
Ms. Adams’ lawsuit did not specify what total damages she seeks.