— A wrongful death lawsuit has been filed against General Motors that accuses the automaker of concealing its defective ignition switches after 2009. Plaintiffs Tracy and Denise Tucker filed the complaint for the wrongful death of their 17-year-old son, Tanner Tucker.
The lawsuit was filed after a federal judge ruled GM owners couldn't sue the automaker for anything prior to July 2009, the date GM emerged from bankruptcy. Part of the bankruptcy agreement stipulated "Old GM" couldn't be held liable for anything that would occur to the "New GM."
The Tanner Tucker lawsuit alleges the New GM is wholly responsible for Tanner's death, which occurred on August 7, 2010. Tanner was driving home in his 2002 Grand Am at 55 mph when the car went out of control, shot off the right side of the road and struck a large oak tree on the driver's side. Tanner suffered severe head injuries and died on impact.
Investigating officers didn't know what caused the accident, but it was clear that although a severe frontal crash had occurred, the airbags didn't deploy.
(Tanner Tucker's crashed 2002 Grand Am with the key in the "accessory" position. Note the lack of an airbag)
Tanner's family was left with nothing but questions about the crash, until four years later when the family received a recall notice to have the ignition switch replaced in the crashed Grand Am.
The ignition switch is the same switch that has caused the recall of millions of GM cars, over 10 years after GM knew of the defect.
The lawsuit accuses the New GM of concealing three problems with the ignition switch. The plaintiffs claim the switch is weak and has a defective "detent plunger" and separately, the placement of the switch makes it easy for a driver's knee to hit the switch or items hanging from the key. Additionally, once the switch moves to the "accessory" or "off" position, power steering, power brakes and airbags are disabled.
(Tanner Tucker's crashed 2002 Grand Am with the weighted key ring. Note the lack of airbag)
GM created a compensation fund in an alleged attempt to compensate victims, but the lawsuit accuses GM of using the fund as a publicity stunt. Specifically, the lawsuit alleges GM has used the fund to appease members of Congress and the public, but the fund lacks real teeth because GM is including only those people injured in vehicles under a certain recall period.
The plaintiffs claim the fund excludes claims related to vehicles affected by five other ignition switch recalls from 2014. If true, this means another 10 million vehicles with defective ignition switches have been ignored by the administrators of the compensation fund.
The lawsuit says the 104 death claims that have been approved to date by GM is only a small number considering the millions of vehicles not qualified by the fund rules. One of those vehicles belonged to Tanner Tucker.
“New GM’s Vehicle Safety Chief, Jeff Boyer recently proclaimed that: ‘Nothing is more important than the safety of our customers in the vehicles they drive.’ Yet New GM utterly failed to live up to this commitment, letting cars, including Tanner Tucker’s, be operated for years with an ignition component just like the one GM’s lead engineer called ‘the switch from hell.’” - Tanner Tucker 2002 Grand Am wrongful death lawsuit
The lawsuit seeks damages against the New GM for concealing the defective ignition switch that allegedly caused Tanner's death.
The Tanner Tucker wrongful death lawsuit was filed in the United States District Court Southern District of New York - Tracy and Denise Tucker v. General Motors, LLC.
The family of Tanner Tucker is represented by Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro, LLP.