July 9, 2014 at 8:38 pm

Alabama law firm files wrongful death suit against GM

Lawyers claim air bags in this '06 Chevrolet Cobalt did not deploy. (Beasley, Allen, Crow, Methvin, Portis & Miles)

An Alabama law firm on Wednesday filed a wrongful death lawsuit against General Motors Co., Delphi Automotive, a Chevrolet dealership and New York repair shop that the firm says is tied to the automaker’s ignition switch defect.

Montgomery, Ala.-based Beasley, Allen, Crow, Methvin, Portis, and Miles said Daniel L. Hollaert Jr., 23, was killed Dec. 17, 2013 in Orleans County, New York, after the 2006 Chevrolet Cobalt he was driving collided with a school bus.

The lawsuit alleges that Hollaert of Monroe County, New York, lost control of the Cobalt after its ignition switch moved from the “run” position. He crossed the center line and crashed head-on with a school bus. The car’s air bags did not deploy.

A spokeswoman for the Beasley Allen law firm says that while the police report does not indicate the ignition switch position, photos of the vehicle taken by law enforcement after the crash show the ignition in the “off” position.

“This was a tragic ending to a young life that was lost because GM covered up a known defect and failed to report to the government or the public the defect and its knowledge that deaths were occurring around the country caused by the identical defect that killed young Mr. Hollaert,” Beasley Allen founding shareholder Jere L. Beasley said in a statement.

A police report indicates Hollaert was not wearing a seat belt and he suffered severe head trauma. The impact to the Cobalt was front center. Three children and a bus driver were transported to a hospital with minor injuries, while a fourth child was taken to a hospital as a precautionary measure.

The Detroit automaker earlier this year recalled 2.59 million older Cobalts, Saturn Ions and other cars because the ignition switch could slip from the “run” to “off” or “accessory” positions, cutting power steering and power brakes. In crashes, the air bags may not deploy. GM has said the crash is linked to 54 crashes and 13 deaths but many lawyers and victims advocates say the death toll is much higher. GM has never identified the 13 victims that had died but Hollaert is believed not to have been one of them based on when his accident occured.

A GM spokesman declined to comment on the lawsuit. Delphi could not immediately be reached for comment.

GM has said it is taking responsibility and has agreed to compensate families of those killed in accidents or those who have suffered serious injuries due to the the ignition switch defect. A voluntary fund is being administered by compensation expert Kenneth Feinberg and will begin accepting claims Aug. 1.

Beasley Allen and Georgia attorney Lance Cooper say they together are investigating more than 250 highway crashes that could be connected to GM’s defective ignition switch. The firms say they will file more lawsuits “in the near future.”

The lawsuit on behalf of Hollaret’s family was filed in Monroe County, New York. It seeks compensatory and punitive damages.

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