A jury in Virginia has returned a $14 million verdict against Hyundai Motor Co. in a lawsuit arising out of a car crash. Duncan and his parents sued Hyundai after he sustained serious brain injury when the Hyundai Tiburon he was driving left the road and collided with a tree on the driver’s side. Although the car was equipped with side air bags, they did not deploy. Proof at trial indicated the side air bags did not deploy because Hyundai had put its side air-bag sensors in the wrong location. The sensors were placed under the driver’s seat, instead of farther out on the car. Hyundai had conducted studies and knew about the potential risks with the sensor location. Hyundai had argued that the car’s air-bag system met federal safety standards and had been thoroughly tested and found to be safe. The company said that Duncan rolled his vehicle into a tree, and that a side air bag would not have kept him from being injured.
The jurors found that a defect in the airbag design was responsible for the injuries suffered by Duncan, who sustained traumatic brain damage in the 2010 crash. It was proved that the airbags did not deploy because the sensors had been placed in the wrong location. The automaker’s U.S. manufacturing plant, which produces the Sonata sedan and Elantra compact, is in Montgomery, Ala.
A first trial against Hyundai ended in a mistrial in 2012 after jurors deadlocked. The second trial began on June 17 and ran for two weeks. The same air-bag sensor design at issue in the Duncan case was also present in Tiburons from model years 2003 until 2008. Hyundai discontinued the Tiburon after 2008. Ari Casper, a lawyer with Stein, Mitchell, Muse, Cipollone, based in Washington, D.C., represented Mr. Duncan in his case and did a very good job.
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