A Mobile jury has returned a $40 million verdict in favor of the parents of a Mobile County teenager who was killed in a car accident in 2004. The jury award came in a wrongful death lawsuit against Kia Motors and the maker of a seatbelt buckle that failed. Tiffany Stabler was ejected from her car on a highway in west Mobile on July 4, 2004. There was a dispute over whether Tiffany was wearing her seatbelt, but witnesses testified that she was. Officials with Kia maintained that she was not wearing the belt.
The high school student was driving a 1999 Kia Sephia that her father had bought for her 16th birthday, just two months prior to the accident. On the date in question, she lost control of the car, which struck a sign and overturned. Kia officials knew that seatbelts in the 1999 model vehicles were faulty, but did not include them in a recall of 1995-1998 vehicles. Kia also was aware that Sephias and Sportages made in 1999 and 2000 had the same faulty seatbelt buckles as the vehicles it recalled in December 2002. The company did not recall the 1999 and 2000 models until August 2004.
The case was tried in Circuit Court Judge Charles Graddick’s courtroom. The verdict was against Kia Motors Corp., Kia Motors America, and Celltrion DBI Inc. Skip Finkbohner and Toby Brown, lawyers with the Mobile-based firm Cunningham Bounds, represented the family. Skip had this to say about the outcome in the case:
I’m satisfied that the court system has done what was within its ability to do, but I feel bad for the family. Kia should have recalled all of the vehicles, not just some of them, particularly because the defect was in a safety device. It’s not like it was a cigarette lighter or a radio. This is the single most important safety device in the car.
These Mobile lawyers, who are very good at what they do, did an outstanding job in this case. Their job was to make sure that justice was done for the family and they certainly accomplished that goal.
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