Hyundai told by US jury to pay $14 million in airbag case

Article by Anita Panait, on July 2, 2013

Jurors in Pulaski County, Virginia ruled that Hyundai Motor Co. should pay $14 million to a local who suffered traumatic brain damage in an accident after the side airbags in his 2008 Hyundai Tiburon coupe did not deploy. The carmaker will appeal the ruling, a spokesman for the carmaker said.

The jury deliberated for over eight hours before ruling that a defect in the 2008 Tiburon’s airbag design was liable for the injuries sustained by Zachary Duncan in the 2010 crash, according to court records and the victim’s attorney. Duncan and his parents filed a lawsuit against Hyundai after he sustained serious brain injury when his Hyundai Tiburon swerved off the road and hit a tree on the driver's side.

According to a copy of the 2010 action, the vehicle was equipped with side airbags, but they failed to deploy. Lawyers for Duncan claimed that the side airbags failed to deploy since Hyundai had placed its side airbag sensors in the wrong location -- under the driver's seat -- instead of further out on the car.

The lawsuit alleged that the carmaker had conducted studies and had knowledge of the potential risks of the sensor location. Local paper Roanoke Times reported that Duncan had passed a friend's car and sped ahead before the crash. His friends dialed 911 but left the scene of the accident before first responders arrived, according to the paper.

Jim Trainor, a spokesman for Hyundai, said in a statement that the carmaker does not agree with the ruling and is confident that it will be reversed after an appeal. Trainor said that while Hyundai is sympathetic to Duncan and his family, the facts remains that he rolled his car into a tree. He remarked that tree crushed the car’s roof and impacted his head, noting that “no side airbag in the world” would have prevented Duncan’s injury. [source: Reuters]

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