GM Is Not The Only Automaker In Court
Austin, TX (Law Firm Newswire) July 23, 2014 – Most of the nation’s major automakers are in court dealing with lawsuits. The most recent Hyundai suit involved yet another defective part.
“This particular case, which I was not involved in, resulted in a jury award of $240 million in punitive damages. Two cousins were killed in a head-on collision in 2011 when the 2005 Hyundai Tiburon they were driving caused them to swerve into income oncoming traffic. Three were killed in that accident,” outlines Brooks Schuelke, an Austin personal injury attorney.
In this case, Hyundai did issue a recall for 2005 Tiburons because of a steering problem. However, it is not clear whether this car was counted in that recall. The accident reconstruction team determined this accident was caused by a defective steering knuckle, which was not the reason the Tiburons were officially recalled. Nonetheless, there was a defective part that caused two people to lose their lives.
Hyundai suggested fireworks had gone off in the victims’ car just minutes before the crash and that fact, combined with the discovery that neither cousin was wearing a seatbelt, seems to conjure up a picture of two reckless teenagers. Blaming the victims for their own deaths is usually a strategy that does not go over well with juries and other arbitration bodies, hence the $240 million jury award in addition to $8.6 million in actual damages and lost earnings. Additionally, the Montana State Crime Lab was unable to find any evidence to prove or disprove Hyundai’s claim of fireworks going off in the car.
Montana has a $10 million cap on punitive damages and the award was three times the amount the plaintiffs sought in compensation. Fines such as this send a message to automakers – that negligence in manufacturing must stop. Automakers have a duty of care toward their customers and must be responsible for defective parts that kill. Hyundai is challenging the award after a District Court judge initially ruled the $10 million was not high enough to act as a deterrent for future wrongdoing by wealthy companies.
“Automakers need to take heed,” adds Schuelke. “The courts take a dim view of negligence that causes a preventable death.”
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