Hyundai hit with a $14m judgment in 2010 crash

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Hyundai hit with a $14m judgment in 2010 crash

Hyundai Motor has been slapped with a $14 million judgment after a U.S. state court jury ruled in favor of a driver who sustained brain damage when a side air bag in his 2008 Tiburon failed to deploy during a crash.

According to media reports and the company, jurors in Pulaski County, Virginia, delivered their verdict Friday that a defect in the Tiburon’s side air bag system was responsible the injury Zachary Duncan suffered in the 2010 accident.

The jury ruled Hyundai must pay $14 million in damages that include projected lost wages over Duncan’s lifetime and future medical expenses. The automaker also was ordered to pay medical expenses since the crash.

Hyundai said it disagreed with the verdict and is expected to appeal.

The lawsuit was filed by Keith and Vanessa Duncan, parents of Zachary. The first trial ended in mistrial after a jury was unable to reach a decision after three weeks of testimony last year.

According to the lawsuit and local media reports, Duncan’s lawyers claimed the side air bags of the Tiburon did not deploy when the vehicle slid into a tree because Hyundai put its sensors in the wrong location. They also argued that the company had conducted studies and allegedly knew about the potential risks.

Hyundai said the sensor was properly placed and the Tiburon received good ratings in crash tests under Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards. Defense attorneys also argued that the side air bags failed to deploy not because they were defective, but because of the angle of impact. They told the jury that even if the air bag had deployed, it would not have prevented Duncan’s injury.

Meanwhile in Korea, Hyundai was cleared of accusations that it allegedly concealed defects of Grandeur HG (known as Azera overseas) after prosecutors dropped charges Monday.

The YMCA Automobile Safety Center last year sought charges against four Hyundai officials, including CEO Kim Choong-ho, after the company allegedly tried to hide that fact that exhaust fumes could flow into passenger compartment of the Grandeur HG. The civic group also accused five officials from the Ministry of Land, Transport and Maritime Affairs, including then Minister Kwon Do-youp, for not ordering a recall even though the ministry knew about the defect.

Rather, the ministry advised Hyundai to offer free repairs and the automaker announced it will repair about 90,000 Grandeurs produced between December 2010 and October 2011.



BY JOO KYUNG-DON [kjoo@joongang.co.kr]

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