GM Depicted Father as Suicidal Murderer to Cover Up Problem that Prompted Recall, Widow Says
An outraged widow claims in court that General Motors contrived a defense that her husband "was a murderer and intended to kill himself and his children" when his Chevy Malibu veered into a pole, and that GM concealed evidence that a "vehicle malfunction" caused the wreck.
Doris Phillips a.k.a. Doris Powledge sued General Motors for herself and the estates of her husband and their four late children, in Galveston County Court.
"On October 18, 2005 a father and his four children were killed in a fiery one-car accident," the complaint begins. "That morning Adam Powledge was taking his children to school. As they drove along I-45 in Houston, Adam lost control of his vehicle, a 2004 Chevy Malibu, and drove onto a grassy median.
"Unable to control the vehicle, the Malibu drove in an almost perfectly straight line until it was cut into two parts, down the middle, by a metal pole located at the center of the median. The car erupted in fire with Adam and the little children inside."
All five occupants died in the wreck.
Phillips sued GM in 2007 , "alleging that an electrical malfunction caused a loss of control of the vehicle."
But GM called her theory "implausible" as no recall had been issued on the 2004 Chevy Malibu, Phillips says in the new lawsuit.
The new complaint states: "A cornerstone of GM's legal defense to the 2007 lawsuit was a particularly nefarious accusation - that Adam Powledge was not the victim of a GM defect, but was a murderer and intended to kill himself and his children. This defense was used throughout the litigation as a means of undermining Dori's case."
Doris Phillips is referred to as "Dori" in the complaint.
She claims GM dragged out the litigation through its 2009 bankruptcy, then with its assets stripped, forced her and other litigants to "accept penny-on-the-dollar settlements."
GM became a poster child for putting the bottom line before customer safety in February, when it announced it was recalling Chevrolets, Saturns and Pontiacs dating back to model year 2004 due to a defective ignition switch that can cause a dangerous sudden power loss.
According to a class action filed against GM, it knew about the defect in 2004 but waited a decade to issue a recall, even as evidence mounted that the defect was linked to dozens of fatal car wrecks.
GM followed up the February recall with another on March 31, affecting 1.3 million vehicles with defective power steering, including the 2004 Chevy Malibu, the car in which Phillips' husband and four children died.
The latest recall prompted Phillips to sue GM on Tuesday, and ask the court to set aside and vacate the final judgment in her previous lawsuit.
Phillips also wants up to $300 million in punitive damages for fraud, conspiracy, infliction of emotional distress and racketeering.
She is represented by Joshua Davis of Houston.
General Motors said it would not comment on the lawsuit unless it got a request on company letterhead, sent to the proper GM division, a procedure which could not be completed by press time.
Meanwhile, the U.S. government on Wednesday released a report that it lost $11.2 billion on its bailout of GM.