Kelly Ruddy was driving along Interstate 81 near Scranton, Pennsylvania when the ignition in her mother’s 2005 Chevy Cobalt switched off.
Ruddy lost control of the car amid the failure. The resulting crash threw her from the compact car. Ruddy landed back on the highway where her body was hit by several other vehicles.
This was in January 2010. Three months later, General Motors, the maker of Chevrolet cars, would recall Ruddy’s vehicle because of a problem ignition switch.
The faulty part, which could disable the engine and safety features like airbags, would eventually be implicated in more than 120 deaths between 2005 and 2014. And General Motors would stand accused of covering up the issue.
“She was 21 when she was murdered,” Kelly’s mother, Mary Ruddy, told NBC10’s Deanna Durante Thursday.
Mary Ruddy, alongside her husband, Leo, spoke about their daughter’s death on the same day a settlement was announced in a lawsuit filed by 50 attorneys general.
In the deal, General Motors will pay $120 million — with about $10 million going to area states.
About $4.7 million of the settlement will go to Pennsylvania to investigate and prosecute "future deceptive practices" that harm consumers, Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro said.
"This case is about much more than GM paying for their deception," Shapiro said. "It’s about changing corporate behavior and protecting Pennsylvanians well into the future."
Another $4.1 million will go to New Jersey.
"Like any other business — large or small — automakers have an obligation to represent the products they sell honestly, to ensure those products are safe, and to alert consumers when they discover a product defect that threatens consumer safety," New Jersey Attorney General Christopher Porrino said. "When they fail to do so, as was the case with GM, we are committed to holding them accountable."
Delaware will get $1.12 million for its consumer protection fund, according to Attorney General Matt Denn's office.
The Ruddy’s said data from the data chip inside their Chevy Cobalt showed the ignition fault set off a chain reaction that resulted in Kelly’s death.
“They determined it was cheaper for them to pay off a few people that should figure out what was going on instead of paying 57 cents to fix [the ignition switch] in all the defective vehicles,” Leo Ruddy said.
General Motors offered no comment on the family’s claims.
Individual families have already settled with General Motors over the ignition switch problem that impacted about 9-million GM cars recalled nationally — and 412,000 cars recalled in Pennsylvania.
In a statement, General Motors acknowledged Thursday’s settlement and its purpose of safety.
"The resolution includes a financial component, and assures GM will continue ongoing improvements made to ensure the safety of its vehicles," GM said. "These improvements include continuation of a new organizational structure devoted to global vehicle safety and the company's 'Speak Up for Safety' program."
Under the settlement, General Motors is required to improve the recall process, ensure safe vehicles and protect whistleblowers and empower employees to report safety issues, Shapiro said.
Theses are areas of focus, Shapiro said:
- Maintain a Vehicle Safety Owner Engagement Team to improve and enhance recall awareness to car owners with open recalls – GM has to provide a report within 60 days after the one-year anniversary of this agreement summarizing their efforts.
- Not represent that any GM car is safe unless they have complied with Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards as set by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
- Maintain a Global Vehicle Safety Organization that identifies and investigates safety issues.
- Maintain a "Speak Up for Safety" program for its employees to report safety-related issues and require all U.S. employees to confirm annually that they have reported safety issues appropriately -- and not faced internal reprisals as a result.
The hope is to also continue to hold GM responsible.
"General Motors’ conduct here was unconscionable," Porrino said. "It put profit ahead of integrity and, more disturbingly, sat on its corporate hands as unwitting drivers and their passengers traveled throughout New Jersey – and throughout our nation – in GM vehicles that had the potential to fail and become uncontrollable at highway speeds."