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

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
plee315@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story:
Michael Hytha at
mhytha@bloomberg.net
Mary Romano, Andrew Dunn