General Motors has been hit with a new lawsuit accusing the automaker of fraud and concealing evidence about the faulty ignition switches in its small cars that have been linked to at least 13 deaths.
Documents recently surfaced showing that a part in the faulty switches was changed, but the part number wasn’t changed. A new part number would have signaled the alteration. An attorney for the couple that filed the suit said GM “secretly” changed the part “then lied about it,” CNN reports. He said GM must disclose how many of it engineers and executives were aware of the change.
The lawsuit was filed on behalf of Ken and Beth Melton, whose daughter Brooke died in 2010 in a crash where her 2005 Chevy Cobalt collided with another car and ran off the road. The Meltons settled an earlier suit over the crash for an undisclosed sum. The new lawsuit accuses GM of fraud, according to CNN. In a deposition in the first lawsuit, GM engineer Ray DeGiorgio said he did not authorize any changes to the switch, but documents turned over to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and Congress show he did in fact sign off on a change to a key piece of the switch.
This year General Motors has recalled almost 2.6 million cars that may have faulty ignition switches. The defective switch, used in Chevrolet Cobalts and other small GM cars, can suddenly switch off, disabling the car’s electrical systems and the air bags, which then fail to deploy in a crash, according to The New York Times. GM has acknowledged the defect’s link to 13 deaths but investigators believe the number may be greater and they are also looking into air bag failures linked to injuries.
GM is under investigation for its failure to initiate a timely recall for a safety problem that came to light more than ten years ago, the Times has reported. A Justice Department investigation was begun in March and GM CEO Mary Barra recently testified before both branches of Congress.