A wrongful death lawsuit was filed against General Motors on behalf of the family of Tanner Tucker on Monday, a 17-year-old boy who was killed when the airbags in his family’s 2002 Pontiac Grand Am failed to deploy because the vehicle was in accessory or off mode.
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Moreover, the new lawsuit reveals that General Motors’ Feinberg fund, which was described as “prompt treatment” for those who “suffered terribly,” actually excludes 10 million vehicles that were recalled for the ignition switch defect, but are not eligible for the Feinberg fund.
“The fact is that GM’s Feinberg fund was established to supposedly aid those injured by the ignition switch defect, but as this smoking gun reveals, families of those who have died due to this defect are still not receiving the compensation that GM promised,” said Steve Berman, managing partner of Hagens Berman who is representing the Tucker famaily. “The fund only allows victims of the first ignition switch recall to make a claim, and in my view that’s an arbitrary line drawn to appease Congress, who at the time of the first ignition switch recall was closely examining GM. Then when Congress lost interest, and GM recalled another 10 million cars, GM stiffed these folks. GM’s fund for victims is as broken as its ignition switches.”
GM’s Feinberg Fund
Noted victim’s right attorney Kenneth Feinberg (worked on the 9/11 victim compensation case) contracted with GM to set up a compensation fund for victims of the ignition switch defect. Feinberg set up a website for the fund and sent letters to the registered owners of the 2.6 million recalled vehicles. More than a million former owners also received letters.
The Feinberg fund program is limited to the 2.6 million vehicles worldwide that were recalled in GM’s initial ignition-switch defect and excludes all cases in which air bags deployed.
The Feinberg fund is now processing the thousands of applications for compensation it received by the January 31st, 2015 deadline.
GM excluding 10 million defective vehicles from compensation
The new complaint claims that GM is only addressing some victims of the ignition switch defect. According to the complaint, “The GM Ignition Compensation Fund administered by Kenneth Feinberg covers claims by those injured in vehicles under the February/March and April ignition switch recalls. It excludes claims arising out of the vehicles affected by five other 2014 ignition-switch recalls, which means, on top of the cars eligible for the Fund, another 10 million vehicles with defective switches—including cars like Tanner Tucker’s—are on the road and capable of causing fatalities or serious injuries.”
Commenting on Monday’s filing, Berman commented: “We believe that this ghastly oversight means GM’s creation of the fund has been arbitrary, and was just a PR stunt to appease Congress and stave off more public outcry. This reveals GM’s fund to be another piecemeal, dangerously insufficient response. GM has shown itself as completely negligent of vehicle owners’ safety, first through its disjointed and insufficient recalls, and now through a so-called compensation fund that overlooks 10 million defective vehicles.”