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Woman charged in 2004 fatal car crash sues GM, alleging it concealed ignition switch problem

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DETROIT - A Texas woman who pleaded guilty to a criminal charge in a 2004 car crash that killed her fiance is suing General Motors Co.

Candice Anderson is asking a federal judge in Tyler to set aside a $75,000 settlement in the case. The lawsuit also seeks unspecified punitive and exemplary damages.

Anderson was driving a 2004 Saturn Ion in November of 2004 when the car suddenly veered off a road and ran into a tree in Van Zandt County, Texas. Her fiance, Gene Mikale Erikson, who was 25 at the time, was killed. Anderson, then 21, was severely hurt.

Because there were no skid marks, authorities believed Anderson was at fault and charged her with negligent homicide, according to the lawsuit. Believing she was to blame, she pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 5 years of deferred punishment and 260 hours of community service. She also was required to pay for Erikson's funeral and $3,500 in court costs, according to a spokeswoman for her lawyer, Robert Hilliard.

The lawsuit alleges that a faulty GM ignition switch was the real cause of the crash. It contends the switch slipped out of the run position, knocking out power steering and brakes and disabling the air bags. GM, the lawsuit alleges, knew about the bad switches but failed to disclose the problem even though Anderson was pleading guilty.

"She pled guilty to criminally negligent homicide and spent years wracked with guilt about Mr. Erickson's death," Hilliard said in a statement Monday.

GM has now admitted knowing about the switch problem for more than a decade and says it is responsible for more than 50 crashes and at least 13 deaths. Despite knowing of the problem years ago, GM only started to recall 2.6 million small cars worldwide last February.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the government's road safety watchdog, confirmed last week for Erickson's mother, Rhonda, that the crash was caused by the bad switch, Hilliard said. "For the first time in 10 years, Ms. Anderson's burden of guilt has been lifted," Hilliard said.

Erikson's mother and two daughters also are parties to the lawsuit against GM, which would not comment on the case.

Anderson also is trying to clear her criminal record, Hilliard's office said.

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