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Indiana Supreme Court Says GM Can Be Sued Over Airbag Issue

December 29, 1995

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) _ A woman whose son was killed in car that had no airbags can sue General Motors Corp. for negligence, the Indiana Supreme Court ruled Thursday.

GM said it should not be sued because the 1986 Chevrolet Sprint met the government’s safety requirements at the time with its shoulder restraint and lap belt.

The high court’s unanimous ruling reversed lower court rulings that had thrown out the lawsuit.

Mary Wilson of Crown Point had argued that her son’s car, one of the smallest manufactured by GM at the time, was unreasonably dangerous because it was not equipped with airbags.

James D. Wilson, 25, died in 1988 when a drunken driver swerved across a street in Gary and struck his car head-on. He was not wearing a seatbelt.

``They made a vehicle they knew could not sustain a crash without injury,″ Mrs. Wilson’s lawyer, James W. Myers III, told the Supreme Court in October.

A message at GM corporate offices in Detroit said it was closed until Jan. 2. A lawyer representing the automaker also was away until next week, his office said.

In similar lawsuits, automakers have argued that the federal government did not require manufacturers to install airbags before 1990.

Ford Motor Co. in November asked the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn a New Hampshire ruling that said Jo-Ann Tebbetts of Gilford, N.H., could sue the automaker because the 1988 Escort in which her daughter died did not have airbags.

Ford said it should not be sued because the car met the government’s requirement at the time for an airbag or automatic shoulder harnesses. It had automatic seat belts.

In Pennsylvania, an appellate court has been asked to allow a 1987 lawsuit against GM to go to trial.

Daniel Cellucci of Philadelphia suffered permanent brain damage when the 1986 Chevrolet Cavalier he was riding in crashed into a tree. Though he was wearing a seat belt, the lawsuit argues that he wouldn’t have been as seriously injured if the car had an airbag.

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