DENVER » A woman who was trapped in her car for nearly a week after crashing off a Colorado highway is suing General Motors over alleged defects in her 2009 Chevy Malibu that she says contributed to the crash.
Kristin Hopkins, who lost the lower half of her legs in the crash, filed a federal lawsuit Tuesday claiming that her car’s electronic stability control failed to engage and that car’s electronic power steering gave out on Red Hill Pass near Fairplay on April 27, 2014.
Hopkins’ lawyer Kurt Zaner told The Denver Post that both systems were covered in recalls issued by GM after the crash. Citing documents GM provided to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the lawsuit says the company first learned about the problem with the stability control on the Malibu in 2008, six years before the crash.
"These are real lives being affected by corporate decisions," he said. "Maybe this teaches GM a lesson — don’t wait so long to issue a recall."
GM would not specifically comment on the claims but issued a statement saying it would "investigate this matter and work to understand what happened and why."
According to the lawsuit, a former Chrysler engineer hired by Zaner found that data on the black box of Hopkins’ Malibu linked the malfunctions described in the recalls to the crash.
After going off the road, Hopkins tumbled 140 feet down an embankment and ended up in an aspen grove. She was trapped in the overturned car for six days without water or food except for some instant oatmeal. Temperatures dropped well below freezing while she was stranded and her feet were crushed beyond repair. She managed to write messages pleading for help on a red-and-white umbrella she stuck out of her car’s window and was rescued after some passersby happened to notice some glare below the road.
Hopkins is 3 inches taller now because of her prosthetic legs and her children are living with her ex-husband as she goes through rehabilitation.
"With my kids, it has been very difficult," she said. "One day you have a mom, and the next day you have a mom with no legs. You cry yourself to sleep," she said.