Woman Cleared in Fatal Car Wreck Tied to GM Faulty Ignition Switch
A district judge in Texas has expunged the conviction of a woman related to a fatal automobile accident in 2004, saying that a defective ignition switch may have actually been the cause of the accident.
Judge Teresa Dunn cleared Candice Anderson after General Motors said in a letter to the court that the 2004 Saturn Ion she was driving may have been one of the millions of cars that had a faulty ignition switch and acknowledged that it may have contributed to the death of 25-year old Gene Mikale Erickson, her fiancÃ© and a passenger in the car.
Anderson’s car struck a tree after it suddenly swerved from a road 60 miles east of Dallas. Besides Erikson’s death, Anderson, who was 21 at the time, was severely injured as the car's airbags failed to deploy. According to the Detroit News, Anderson was convicted of criminal negligent homicide. She served five years probation, performed community service, and had to pay fines and court costs. Anderson also had to cover funeral costs for Erikson. Her conviction will now be removed from her record.
In a statement, Anderson said that because of her conviction, she lost her chosen career.
"I trained and worked as a [certified nurse's aide]. I applied and was denied positions at numerous jobs due to my criminal record," she said in a statement. "This has not been an easy road."
GM said that Anderson’s car would have been among the 2.2 million Chevrolet Cobalts and HHRs, Saturn Ions and Skys and Pontiac G5s and Solstices subject to a recall for the ignition switch failure.
The automaker began the recall in February, notifying owners that the ignition switches could shut off the engine during driving and prevent the airbags from inflating. The fault had been known to GM for at least a decade before the recall being declared.
In April, in a Senate subcommittee hearing on the safety defect, lawmakers confronted General Motors CEO Mary Barra with evidence that a company employee, Ray DeGiorgio, intentionally tried to hide the switch problem back in 2006. It was also revealed that GM purposely withheld the knowledge that failed switches would lead to airbags not deploying in accidents.
Congressional investigators have since suggested that GM may have approved the switches in 2002 even though they knew they might not meet safety standards. The company was aware of a problem with the ignition switches, as early as 2001 when they were testing the Ion, according to the company's timeline of events. GM is facing multiple investigations into why it did not attempt to fix them sooner, including a federal criminal probe.
Those revelations have prompted politicians, safety advocates and victim's families to call for criminal charges for the people responsible for the cover up. Many lawsuits against GM and parts supplier Delphi Automotive have been filed in response to the recall, including at least two class-action suits.