DETROIT (AP) — The families of three teenagers killed or injured in a 2006 Wisconsin car crash are suing General Motors, alleging that the company was negligent in designing its small cars and committed fraud by not disclosing facts about the defects.
Natasha Weigel, who was 18, and Amy Rademaker, who was 15, died after the October 2006 crash involving a 2005 Chevrolet Cobalt compact car with a faulty ignition switch. The car's driver, Megan Phillips, suffered permanent brain damage, according to a statement from the families' law firm.
GM failed to warn the teens of a dangerous defect and misrepresented the car's safety, said lawyer Robert Hilliard in a statement. The firm said the lawsuit was filed Friday in Hennepin County, Minn., where the car was purchased.
The crash was among the first blamed on the faulty ignition switches. Last month GM recalled 1.6 million Cobalts and other small cars worldwide to replace the switches. The company has admitted knowing about the problem for at least 11 years before taking the action.
The switches can slip out of the run position, shutting down the engine while the cars are being driven. That can cut off power-assisted steering and brakes and cause drivers to lose control. It also disables the air bags if there's a crash. GM says at least a dozen people have been killed in crashes linked to the switches.
Hilliard, whose firm is in Corpus Christi, Texas, said an investigation showed the Cobalt's air bags failed to activate and the ignition switch was in the accessory position. That indicates the power steering and brakes and air bags did not work properly, he said.
"GM hid this dangerous, life-threatening defect from my clients and all other Cobalt drivers for over a decade just to avoid the cost of a recall," Hilliard, of the firm Hilliard Munoz Gonzales, said in the statement.
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