Family upset that GM keeps sending recall notices to their dead son
Andrea Janus, CTVNews.ca
Published Wednesday, July 2, 2014 6:04PM EDT
Last Updated Wednesday, July 2, 2014 9:02PM EDT
The parents of an eastern Ontario man who died in a car crash nearly two years ago say GM continues to send them recall notices for his vehicle, even though they have notified the company of their son’s death.
Suzanne Baker’s son, Nick, died in a head-on collision on Country Road 2 near Cornwall, Ont., 100 kilometres outside of Ottawa,on Oct. 18, 2012.
The 22-year-old was driving home from work when his car swerved into oncoming traffic. His car’s airbag did not deploy and he died immediately, his mother says.
In April, Nick’s parents received the first of a series of recall notices for Nick’s 2006 Saturn Ion. The notice was addressed to their son.
“They keep sending them in Nick’s name and I don’t understand their logic. Is it to drive the knife even farther into my heart? Or is it to make them say ‘oh I’m good because I’ve sent you a notice stating there’s a part wrong with it?’” Suzanne told CTV News.
“But it doesn’t help. It was two years ago.”
Suzanne Baker says she called GM to inform the company of Nick’s death after she got the first notice. But that didn’t stop the company from sending more letters throughout the spring.
GM has recalled tens of millions of vehicles in North America this year alone, many over a faulty ignition switch problem. Last month, GM’s compensation consultant announced a plan to pay victims of crashes caused by defective switches in small cars, including the Ion.
Lawyers say about 100 people have died and hundreds more have been injured in small-car crashes, while GM has linked the ignition switch defect to 13 deaths. The company has not put a cap on what it will pay to injured victims or the family members of those who have died.
The Bakers are among victims and their families who have filed wrongful death suits against GM, alleging the company knew of the defects for at least a decade and yet failed to act. The Bakers are suing the company for $500 million.
In May, the company agreed to pay a record $35 million fine for failing to report problems to the U.S. government in the time required by law: within five days of discovering them.
At first, Suzanne assumed Nick’s death was the result of an accident; that perhaps he was reaching for food he had on the passenger seat, causing him to lose control of the vehicle. However, after receiving the first recall notice, Suzanne and her husband suspected Nick’s death was related to the recall.
The faulty ignition switch can cause a car to lose power and shut down, or it can lead to the loss of power steering and prevent airbags from deploying.
The April letter says there is a risk that the ignition switch may move out of the “run” position, which could result in the partial loss of electrical power or lead the engine to turn off entirely.
A recall notice sent in June says the company will replace the power steering motor free of charge because of concerns over a defect.
“Your vehicle equipped with EPS may experience a sudden loss of power steering assist that could occur at any time while driving,” the notice says.
A driver is alerted when the car loses power steering and reverts to manual mode, but it “would require greater driver effort at low vehicle speeds, which could result in an increased risk of a crash.”
The notice goes on to apologize for any inconvenience, and closes with: “We are concerned about your safety and continued satisfaction with our products.”
The Bakers, who also lost a daughter in a house fire 23 years ago, say the ordeal is “a very stressful, horrible thing.”
Suzanne has been on a leave of absence from her job.
“He was a good boy,” she says of her son. “There was no need for this to happen.”