Phillips on General Motors: ‘I think they did me wrong’

 Engine fire to spur R’ham woman to file GM claim

By Kevin Spradlin
PeeDeePost.com

ROCKINGHAM — Velva Hamilton has been, Kathy Phillips said, “my crutch.”

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com Rockingham resident Kathy Phillips, 60, erected this symbolic mock cemetery in her front yard to protest the actions of General Motors.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com
Rockingham resident Kathy Phillips, 60, erected this symbolic mock cemetery in her front yard to protest the actions of General Motors.

And Phillips, 60, of Rockingham, blames General Motors for her not being able to visit her 90-year-old mother, who lives a few miles away in Cordova, since late February.

But there could be hope. On the heels of an announcement made early Monday by GM that the auto manufacturer will soon begin accepting applications for claims against injuries, both physical and otherwise, caused by a faulty ignition switch, Phillips appeared cautiously optimistic that GM might give her case and claim, first denied, a second look.

Though her 2001 Monte Carlo doesn’t meet the criteria as spelled out by attorney Kenneth Feinberg, who is working on behalf of GM to resolve each claim, it ultimately is up to Feinberg himself to determine whether or not hers is a valid claim.

“All I want is my car,” Phillips said. “I have no means of seeing my mother” or traveling to the grocery store or to her doctor’s office in Pinehurst.

“I talk to her everyday. This is valuable time they’ve taken away from me. There’s no price on it.”

On Feb. 26, Phillips’ grandson, Adam Bishop, was driving her 2001 Monte Carlo SS when the car caught fire. No one was injured by the vehicle was a complete loss. She paid $7,600 for the vehicle in 2008, Phillips said, when the odometer read 74,000 miles. At the time of the accident four months ago, the odometer read 126,000.

The day after she bought it, Phillips said, she had it in for repairs at Firestone in Rockingham. The bill came to about $1,700. The problem? The ignition switch.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com Kathy Phillips received this postcard from the local GM dealership offering repairs to her vehicle after suffering damage due to an engine compartment fire.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com
Kathy Phillips received this postcard from the local GM dealership offering repairs to her vehicle after suffering damage due to an engine compartment fire.

However, it wasn’t until March 18 — nearly three weeks after the Feb. 26 car fire — while she was watching a television news program that she became aware of a GM recall. She called GM almost immediately. The representatives there were very nice, she said. At first.

On March 28, she was told that due to North Carolina general statutes that limit such claims against vehicles more than 12 years old — hers was 13 from the model year — her claim was denied. Phillips is persistent, bitter and firm in her conviction that GM is in the wrong — made personal in part because of the second question she was asked.

“They asked me my name,” Phillips said. “Then my age.”

Phillips said she felt GM representatives quickly dismissed her as being “out of the market” as a potential GM customer and marked her off the priority list of customers to keep satisfied.

The day after another media outlet published a story about Phillips and her concerns in late May, Phillips said she received a postcard in the mail the very next Saturday from the local GM dealership.

“I fumed over it,” Phillips said. “Talk about rubbing it in my face.”

Phillips stays updated on the situation. She knows 2.6 million cars were involved in the recall over what she calls the “deadline ignition switch” that has led to air bag-related deaths of at least 13 people. Other fatalities in those same incidents, Phillips said, have not been counted in the official death toll because they weren’t injured directly by the air bag. Some have put the death toll at at least 29.

In protest, Phillips has erected a symbolic mock cemetery in her front yard of her Fayetteville Road home. Thirteen bricks represent the 13 people lost that GM has verified.

Phillips has owned more than a dozen GM vehicles in her life. Regardless of how her next claim makes out, she’s asked if she’ll ever drive a GM vehicle again.

“No,” she said resolutely. “Never.”

Filed in: Featured News, Latest Headlines, News

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