Woman Charged in Fiance's Death Learns GM Defect May Have Caused Crash
In a heartbreaking case out of Texas, a woman was convicted of criminally negligent homicide in a crash that killed her fiancé, only to find out years later that her car was a faulty GM vehicle.
In 2004, Candice Anderson’s Saturn Ion crashed, killing her fiancé Gene Mikale Erikson. Anderson pled guilty and was sentenced to five years of deferred punishment, 260 hours of community service and required to pay for Erikson’s funeral.
After years of carrying guilt for Erikson’s death, Anderson discovered that a faulty GM ignition switch may have been the real cause. The defect has been blamed for 13 deaths and 54 accidents. Now, Anderson is suing GM.
Anderson is asking a federal judge in Tyler to set aside a $75,000 settlement in the case. The lawsuit also seeks unspecified punitive and exemplary damages.
The lawsuit alleges that a faulty GM ignition switch was the real cause of the crash. It contends the switch slipped out of the run position, knocking out power steering and brakes and disabling the air bags. GM, the lawsuit alleges, knew about the bad switches but failed to disclose the problem even though Anderson was pleading guilty.
"She pled guilty to criminally negligent homicide and spent years wracked with guilt about Mr. Erickson's death," Hilliard said in a statement Monday.
GM has now admitted knowing about the switch problem for more than a decade and says it is responsible for more than 50 crashes and at least 13 deaths. Despite knowing of the problem years ago, GM only started to recall 2.6 million small cars worldwide last February.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the government's road safety watchdog, confirmed last week for Erickson's mother, Rhonda, that the crash was caused by the bad switch, Hilliard said. "For the first time in 10 years, Ms. Anderson's burden of guilt has been lifted," Hilliard said.
Erikson's mother and two daughters also are parties to the lawsuit against GM, which would not comment on the case.
Anderson also is trying to clear her criminal record, Hilliard's office said.
On Happening Now, trial attorney Heather Hansen said that because of the fraud that “seems pretty apparent here,” Anderson should be able to make her case easily.
“[GM has] already been fined from the government. They fired 15 people, at least three of those were GM lawyers. She’s going to have a much easier time proving fraud in that settlement,” Hansen said, adding that she will likely also get her crimnal record expunged.
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