Bloomberg News

GM Ignition Switch to Be Blamed in Suit for Cobalt Deaths (1)

March 21, 2014

General Motors (GM:US) Co., facing lawsuits in the U.S. and Canada over faulty ignition switches, was served with what may be the first wrongful-death suit since the company recalled 1.6 million vehicles in February, in a case involving two fatalities in a 2006 car crash, a law firm said.

The lawsuit will be filed within the hour in Hennepin County District Court in Minneapolis, according to the firm.

Bob Hilliard, one of the lawyers who is filing the case, said in an interview that his clients are seeking $50 million to $100 million, as well as punitive damages. The suit accuses the carmaker of negligence in designing and manufacturing the switch, Hilliard said. The car dealer and a relative of the driver were also named in the suit.

Seventeen-year-old Megan Phillips was driving a 2005 Chevrolet Cobalt with two friends in Wisconsin when the ignition switch moved to the “accessory” position and cut power to the car, according to a copy of the complaint provided by the law firm. The Cobalt veered off the road, hit a telephone junction box and two trees and the air bags didn’t deploy, according to the complaint. The airbags didn’t deploy. Phillips was seriously injured and her two passengers were killed, according to the complaint.

Twelve Deaths

GM has said it identified 12 deaths in connection with the recall of 1.6 million models made in the mid-2000s, including some Chevrolet Cobalts and HHRs as well as Opel, Pontiac and Saturn models. The two fatalities in Hilliard’s suit are among those 12, according to his firm, Hilliard Munoz Gonzales LLP in Corpus Christi, Texas.

Investigators documented the 2006 Wisconsin accident and identified a failure similar to one cited by GM in its February recalls, according to a report commissioned by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Last week, Hilliard filed a proposed class action, or group lawsuit, against the automaker seeking as much as $10 billion to compensate GM car owners for the diminished value of vehicles affected by the recall.

Greg Martin, a spokesman for Detroit-based General Motors, declined to comment on specific lawsuits.

To contact the reporter on this story: Patrick G. Lee in New York at

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Michael Hytha at Mary Romano, Andrew Dunn

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