May 14 Hyundai Motor America said on Wednesday
it would appeal a $248 million verdict awarded to the families
of two boys killed in 2011 in a crash involving a Hyundai car
they claimed was defective.
Jurors in Lake County, Montana, returned the verdict Tuesday
following a two-week trial, according to Mark Williams, the
lawyer who represented the family of Tanner Olson. Olson, 14,
and his 19-year-old cousin, Trevor Olson, were killed when the
2005 Hyundai Tiburon they were riding in was involved in a
crash, Williams said. The car was being driven by Trevor Olson.
Jurors deliberated for 12 hours before awarding the boys'
families a total of approximately $8 million in damages for
their losses, and finding that South-Korea based Hyundai Motor
Co and its U.S. subsidiary, Hyundai Motor America,
had acted with "actual malice," according to the verdict sheet.
The jurors then ordered Hyundai and its U.S. unit to pay an
additional $240 million in punitive damages, Williams said.
The families alleged that a component of the Hyundai known
as the steering knuckle was defective, and blamed it for causing
the accident that killed both boys. The part spontaneously
cracked and caused the Hyundai to swerve into another car, they
Hyundai maintained that it was not to blame, and said that
exploding fireworks in the car had caused the driver to lose
control, according to a statement from the company.
A woman in the other car involved in the crash died as well.
That was not part of the lawsuit, Williams said.
A Hyundai spokesman, Chris Hosford, said the company planned
to immediately appeal the verdict. While the accident was
tragic, the company believes the verdict is "outrageous, and
should be overturned as Hyundai is not at fault," he said in a
Williams said the plaintiffs were pleased with verdict.
"We're grateful for the jurors' hard work," he said.
The case is Olson v. Hyundai Motor Co, Monathan Twentieth
Judicial District Court - Lake County, No. DV-11-304.
(Reporting by Jessica Dye; Editing by Ted Botha and Leslie