GM may bring smoking habits into play in lawsuit over crash of a 2012 Chevrolet Impala.

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GM may bring smoking habits into play in lawsuit over crash of a 2012 Chevrolet Impala.

— The mother of a 19-year-old New Hampshire woman has filed a lawsuit against General Motors alleging a defective ignition switch caused the airbags to fail in a deadly crash.

Paige Garneau was riding in the front seat with an 18-year-old male driver in a car that had been reported stolen by his father. Police found the vehicle and the driver of the stolen car took off with police in pursuit. The driver lost control of the car and crashed into trees, killing the unbelted Garneau when she struck the windshield.

Garneau's mother blames GM and a local dealership for selling a 2012 Chevy Impala with an allegedly defective ignition switch that caused the airbags to fail in the crash of the stolen car.

Although the 18-year-old driver was fleeing police when the crash occurred, Paige Garneau's mother says her daughter would still be alive if GM wouldn't have sold millions of defective vehicles with ignition switches that can move out of the "run" position.

Those switches have been linked to at least 124 deaths and hundreds of injuries due to the automaker waiting years to recall the vehicles. With a simple bump to the key or key ring or a bump in the road, the switch can move to the "accessory" or "off" position and kill the car. No matter what speed the car is moving, a driver will lose power steering, power brakes and if the ignition is turned off, the airbags will fail.

The judge in the Garneau lawsuit says a trial is scheduled for September 2018 unless the affected parties come to a settlement agreement before then.

In another ignition switch lawsuit, attorneys for GM are wanting to bring in evidence concerning the former smoking habits of the plaintiff who alleges he was injured due to a defective ignition switch.

Plaintiff Dennis Ward blames the ignition switch for a rear-end collision in 2014 when Ward hit a stopped car and alleged ruptured a tendon in his knee. Ward says he spent weeks in a hospital and had to have surgery after the crash and still suffers the consequences of the injury.

GM allegedly has a plan to call an expert witness who will testify Ward's knee problems are partially caused by vascular disease brought on by smoking. Ward says trying to tie smoking to his injury is nonsense because he quit smoking years before the crash.

Ward's health may also be a target because he had double bypass surgery for his heart in 2010 and also has diabetes. If GM can cast doubt in the eyes of jury members about the cause of damage to Ward's knee, it could decrease the amount of any award if GM is found liable.

General Motors also is looking at referencing a civil lawsuit filed against Mr. Ward and his wife about 24 years ago, a case that Ward says has nothing to do with his current case.

According to Ward, GM hasn't said how or why the old lawsuit is relevant to the ignition switch lawsuit and the judge should not allow the automaker to even bring up the subject.

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