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Products Liability

The GM Recall: A Personal Loss

May 15, 2014 | Michael Barasch

Recently announced vehicle recalls by General Motors (GM) are provoking a firestorm of response from consumers, regulatory agencies and the U.S. Justice Department. For one Wisconsin family, the storm began in 2006. 

The memorial for Wisconsin teen Amy Lynn Rademaker was held on her 16th birthday. Ms. Rademaker was returning from a shopping trip to Walmart with two friends in 2006. Along a rural highway, the Chevrolet Cobalt driven by her girlfriend hit a raised driveway, became airborne, hit a utility box and crashed into a grove of trees. One girl died immediately, Amy died several hours later and the third girl survived with serious injuries. None wore a seatbelt. 

The Rademaker family learned the Chevrolet Cobalt lost power and steering capabilities prior to the crash. Without power, the airbags did not deploy, dooming the teens. 

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) investigated the faulty airbag deployment. Points of the report include: 

  • The investigator noted “inadvertent contact with the ignition switch or a keychain in the 2005 Chevrolet Cobalt can in fact result in engine shut-down and loss of power.”
  • Citing a 2006 safety bulletin from General Motors, the investigator further noted “[t]he bulletin indicated the condition was documented to occur when a driver’s knee contacted a key chain while the vehicle was turning and the steering column was adjusted all the way down.”
  • The report notes NHTSA had received at least six complaints by 2006 associated with engine shut off and loss of power due to the ignition switch. 

After recently filing a lawsuit, the Rademaker family learned the GM bankruptcy, filed in 2009, could be used to refute their legal claim. The U.S. Justice Department is investigating whether GM committed bankruptcy fraud for failing to disclose this clearly known defect. 

Like Toyota Motor, GM knew of a deadly defect and failed to act. No amount of investigation can bring back Amy Rademaker, but it can provide answers to the family she left behind. 

If you are injured, or a loved one killed due to a defective product in New York, talk to an experienced personal injury attorney.

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