Woman’s Conviction Overturned 10 Years After Fatal Wreck, GM Says Ignition Switch Could Be To Blame

Millions of General Motors vehicles have been found to contain a deadly ignition switch defect. Among those cars is the 2004 Saturn Ion. And while that may seem insignificant to the vast majority of consumers, it resulted in a judge clearing a Texas woman for a car accident that killed her fiancé.

The Associated Press reports that the judge’s decision to expunge the conviction from the woman’s record came after General Motors acknowledged that the woman’s 2004 Saturn Ion was among millions recalled for a problem that may have contributed to her fiancé’s death.

On Monday, nearly 10 years after the fatal accident, General Motors provided documentation noting that the death wasn’t the woman’s fault.

An attorney for General Motors provided the court with a letter confirming that the woman’s Saturn was among the 2.6 million vehicles recalled in February to address ignition switches that can slip out of the “run” position, causing the engines to stall and disabling power steering, brakes and airbags.

The letter called the crash “one in which the recall condition may have caused or contributed to the frontal airbag non-deployment in the accident.”

Back in 2004, the woman was driving her car when it suddenly veered off the road and slammed into a tree. The driver, then 21, was severely injured when the car’s airbag failed to deploy. Her 25-year-old fiancé was killed.

Shortly afterward, the woman was charged with criminal negligent homicide because there was no clear explanation at the time why the wreck occurred. She plead guilty to a lesser charge in 2006, and was sentenced to five years’ probation, ordered to perform 260 hours of community service, pay court fees and cover the cost of her fiancé’s funeral.

The woman’s attorney expressed outrage at GM’s previous non-action regarding the accident, despite the fact that documents how the company knew of ignition issues at the time of the woman’s conviction.

“GM knew this defect caused this death, yet instead of telling the truth watched silently as [the driver] was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter,” the attorney tells the AP. “It took 10 years for GM to find its voice.”

Officials with GM say they fully cooperated in the matter, saying it was up to local law enforcement and the courts to consider the woman’s case.

A federal lawsuit, filed on behalf of the woman and her late fiancé’s family, was dropped after the parties agreed to resolve their claims through the victim compensation program set up by GM.

So far, the program has approved 35 death claims and 44 injury claims related to the ignition switch defect.

Woman cleared in fatal car wreck after GM letter [The Associated Press]

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