Lake County District Judge Deborah Kim Christopher has ruled that Hyundai Motor Co. should pay $73 million in punitive damages to the families of to the families of Trevor Olson and his cousin Tanner Olson who died in 2011 crash blamed on a steering flaw. The families originally sought $240 million in punitive damages plus $8.1 million in actual damages.
While punitive damages were reduced, Christopher upheld the actual damages awarded by the state jury. Hyundai had tried to convince Christopher to further reduce the punitive damages, but the judge rejected it. The families filed the suit in 2011, saying that Tanner Olson lost control of a 2005 Hyundai Tiburon after a faulty steering knuckle broke.
Christopher ruled that Hyundai showed “an indifference to or reckless disregard of the health and safety of the motoring public.” She noted that Hyundai had 127 warranty reports on steering knuckle over a decade -- -- problems or defects that were contrary to the carmaker’s own material specifications – but apparently took no steps to investigate.”
A Hyundai spokesman told Bloomberg in an e-mail that the South Korean carmaker will appeal the rulings, which he described as erroneous and “constitute an extreme outlier in the law on punitive damages.” Hyundai noted that both state and federal courts have consistently have upheld the constitutionality of punitive damages caps, something that Christopher ruled as unconstitutional. [source: automotive news - sub. required]