Woman Cleared in Crash Death Due to Defective G.M. Ignition Switch

Ten years ago, on Nov. 15, 2004, Gene Mikale Erickson, then 25, was killed in a car crash when his fiancé lost control of the 2004 Saturn Ion car they were traveling in and crashed into a tree near Tyler, Texas.

The fiancé, Candice Anderson, who was 21 at the time of the crash, pleaded guilty to criminally negligent homicide, underwent five years of probation, paid more than $10,000 in fines and restitution and has since been wracked with guilt and sadness about the crash.

Anderson’s anguish has been lessened recently, now that a Texas judge has cleared her of wrongdoing in Erickson’s death due to an admission by General Motors, the makers of the Saturn automobile she was driving, that the crash was caused by a defective ignition switch that removed control of the vehicle from Anderson as she drove it that fateful day.

The astonishing turn of events was reported Nov. 24 in a story by The New York Times, which described how G.M. “for the first time publicly linked Mr. Erickson’s death to an ignition switch defect in millions of its small cars.” It was, however, a long delayed admission.

Anderson “received the bittersweet news [Nov. 24] in a Texas courtroom, fighting back tears, and [with] her arm around the mother of the boyfriend she had felt responsible for killing” in the crash, the paper reported.

On the day of the car crash, she had “inexplicably lost control” and struck a tree, the Times reported. Erickson died at the scene.

“Ms. Anderson’s Saturn Ion was among the cars equipped by G.M. with the defective switch, which can cause a loss of power, disabling power brakes, power steering and airbags,” the story reported. “At least 35 deaths have been linked to the defect, which went unreported by G.M. for more than a decade.”

Tragically, in May 2007, five months before Ms. Anderson entered her guilty plea, “G.M. had conducted an internal review of the crash and quietly ruled its car was to blame, but never let Ms. Anderson or local law enforcement officials know,” the story continued.

She suffered serious injuries in the accident, including a lacerated liver, “but the guilt surrounding her own survival and her boyfriend’s death caused her more enduring pain,” she told the paper. “This will change so many things,” Anderson told the paper in the telephone interview following the judge’s ruling.

“The automaker’s public acknowledgment linking Ms. Anderson’s crash to the defective ignition switch came in a letter from G.M.’s lawyers that was submitted by her lawyers to the district judge in Van Zandt County, Tex.,” the paper reported.

The information about the ignition switch problems could have had a huge difference in her case had it been available at the time of the crash, the Times reported. “The district attorney who prosecuted Ms. Anderson, Leslie Poynter Dixon, and the police trooper who investigated the accident had both said that if the ignition-switch defect had been publicly known at the time of the crash, certain details of the accident — like the lack of skid marks or evasive action — would have been seen differently.”

Dixon, the district attorney, wrote a letter in support of Anderson to the Texas court in July, according to the Times. “Had I known at the time that G.M. knew of these issues and has since admitted to such, I do not believe the grand jury would have indicted her for intoxication manslaughter,” Dixon wrote.

In May, the Times reported that “General Motors considered Mr. Erickson a victim of its faulty ignition switch.”

Anderson learned of her accident’s inclusion in G.M.’s records only after Erickson’s mother demanded confirmation from federal regulators, the paper reported.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., has called Anderson’s original indictment “a perversion of the justice process” and pushed for a pardon in her case, the Times reported.

Blumenthal praised the ruling that has freed Anderson, according to the paper. “Her plight demonstrates just how far the consequences of General Motors’ concealment go, hurting not just direct victims of defective cars but also those who were blamed for the accidents even when G.M. knew full well what the cause had been,” he said.

The court ruling that acquitted Anderson in this tragic case was a decade too late, but was absolutely the right thing to do. There could be more victims of similar miscarriages of justice in connection with G.M.’s defective ignition switch fiasco, so this scenario could yet be repeated elsewhere in the United States.

The most important thing here is that justice was finally served and that an innocent woman has been cleared in a horrific, tragic crash that was not her fault and that caused the death of her fiancé 10 years ago.

These kinds of legal cases occur every day when innocent victims are severely hurt or killed in vehicle crashes through no fault of their own due to the actions, inattentiveness or indifference of others. That’s why it is critical to have a legal team on your side that uncovers every fact to bolster your case and maximize your damage award.

We here at MyPhillyLawyer stand ready to assist you with your legal case if you or a loved one is ever seriously injured in a vehicle incident or accident anywhere in the United States. We represent the families of victims who die in such tragedies as well, to ensure that their families receive every penny of damages that they are eligible to receive.

Call MyPhillyLawyer at 215-227-2727 or toll-free at 1-866-920-0352 anytime and our experienced, compassionate, aggressive team of attorneys and support staff will be there for you and your family every step of the way as we manage your case through the legal system.