(KYTX) - A lawsuit filed in the Federal court system's Eastern District of Texas Monday seeks to punish General Motors for allegedly covering up the specifics of a 2004 car accident in Van Zandt County.
At the time, 21-year-old Candice Anderson was driving a Saturn Ion with her boyfriend, Mikale Erickson, in the passenger seat. The car veered off the road for then-unknown reasons and smashed into a tree, killing Erickson and injuring Anderson. The airbags did not deploy. Anderson was later indicted in Erickson's death and ultimately pleaded guilty to a state jail felony charge of criminally negligent homicide.
For years, Anderson believed she may have been responsible for the accident.
Last week Anderson learned the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration had linked Erickson's death to the now-infamous GM ignition switch defect and subsequent recall.
Anderson's lawsuit claims GM "intentionally, purposely, fraudulently, and systematically concealed the defects" in the Saturn Ion's design. It goes on to claim that Anderson's Saturn dealership knew prior to the wreck that there was a problem, serviced the car, failed to repair it and then returned it to Anderson.
"GM allowed Candice Anderson to believe that she was solely responsible for causing the death of her fiancé, Gene Mikale Erickson, when GM had knowledge that would [clear her name]," attorney Bob Hilliard of Hilliard Munoz Gonzales wrote in the suit. "However, instead of producing the exculpatory evidence, GM hid the information, sat back and watched Candice Anderson plead guilty to a crime she was not responsible for because GM knew that the guilty plea would hamper Plaintiffs’ ability to make a full recovery against GM."
The suit seeks to re-open a civil case GM settled in 2006 under undisclosed terms. Hilliard said that settlement was made without Anderson and Erickson's family's full knowledge of the defective part and the liability it brought for GM.
The suit seeks to recover "benefit-of-the-bargain damages" as well as personal injury damages and all costs associated with litigating the case.
A GM spokesperson said he could not comment on the specifics of Anderson's pending lawsuit. Instead he provided the following statement from CEO Mary Barra:
"We are taking responsibility for what has happened by taking steps to treat these victims and their families with compassion, decency and fairness. We made serious mistakes in the past and as a result we’re making significant changes in our company to ensure they never happen again."