BRODNAX, Va. — A Virginia family says they plan to sue General Motors after the car manufacturer turned them down for compensation following a deadly crash.
On Jan. 6, 2012, Marquis Wood was driving his 2009 Chevy Cobalt only a mile away from his home when he lost control of the car. It flipped multiple times, hit a tree and landed in ditch. Marquis was killed.
Marquis’ uncle, Reginald Wood, said the police told them they were unsure what exactly led to the accident, because Wood wasn’t impaired and was traveling a route he drove every day.
The family says they believe a deadly GM ignition defect, now said to be behind at least 50 deaths, led to Marquis’ crash.
The ignition problem is said to result in the key of a vehicle falling into the “off” or “accessory” position while the vehicle is in motion. When the cars switch off, the driver can lose control of the vehicle. If the key remains in the “off” or “accessory” position, the air bags are prevented from deploying.
Marquis had gone to a mechanic for an ignition problem prior to the crash, his family says.
Also, his air bags did deploy at some point, but the family doesn’t believe it happened at the time of impact.
GM announced a compensation program last year and has begun accepting claims.
Marquis’ mother, Cathy Wood, says she received two letters about submitting a claim — one addressed to her, the other to her son.
“That tells me right then and there that GM knows about my situation,” Cathy said.
But after submitting a claim and waiting months, Cathy says she was told that, because Marquis’ air bag deployed, she isn’t eligible for compensation.
Reginald Wood says he believed GM would seriously consider his sister’s claim, because they had documentation of the mechanic visit shortly before the crash. Also, he says he believes pictures of the vehicle show proof that the air bags didn’t deploy until after impact.
The family thinks Marquis’ keys were heavy enough to move the key in the ignition and cause a delay in air bag deployment.
“We’re marching straight towards a jury and we’ll have our day in court,” said the family’s attorney, Jonathan Michaels. “Marquis actually took his car in to be serviced because the car ignition switch was continuously cutting out while he was driving the vehicle.”
The family is seeking punitive damages in a wrongful-death suit against GM for an amount the jury finds appropriate to not only compensate the family, but also punish GM.
“He had his whole life ahead of him,” Cathy said of Marquis. “[GM is] not making their wrong right.”
GM has hired attorney Ken Feinberg to oversee the compensation program.
Feinberg wouldn’t discuss the Woods’ case but spoke about the program overall in an email.
“If the air bag is found to have deployed, a claimant is automatically deemed to be ineligible for compensation. This is because, if the air bag deployed, automobile power is functioning and the ignition switch has not been inadvertently turned to the off position.”
When asked Feinberg said, “we do not know of any case where an air bag did deploy and a claimant received compensation.”
Here’s a copy of the complaint: