Hyundai Faces Lawsuits for Air Bag Defects

Reportedly, a jury recently ordered Hyundai Motor Co. to pay Zachary Duncan, a Virginia resident, $14 million because of an airbag defect. The man was driving his 2008 Hyundai Tiburon when he was in a car accident in 2010. The side airbags failed to deploy and he suffered traumatic brain injuries. According to the court records, after an eight hour deliberation, jurors in the case found that an air-bag design defect was ultimately responsibile for the man’s injuries.

According to the complaint, Duncan’s car left the road and struck a tree on the driver’s side. Even though the car had side air bags, they did not deploy. Allegedly, Hyundai put the side air-bag sensors under the driver’s seat even though they had conducted studies and were aware of the sensor location’s potential risks.

Attorneys for Hyundai argued that the vehicle’s air-bag system had been thoroughly tested, met federal safety standards, and was found to be safe. This was Duncan’s second trial. It began on June 17th and lasted two weeks. The first trial was deadlocked in 2012 and resulted in a mistrial.

According to the plaintiff’s attorney, 2003-2008 Tiburons were equipped with the same air-bag sensor design and the Tiburon was discontinued after 2008.

Hyundai has recalled nearly 1.3 million vehicles since 2006 for air bag malfunctions. Most recently, Hyundai recalled around 200,000 2007-2009 Santa Fe crossovers in conjunction with the settlement of a lawsuit. Reportedly, there is a software flaw that may cause the front passenger air bag to be disengaged if occupied by a person of “small stature.”

In a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration report, Hyundai stated that, in the event of a frontal crash, this defect could result in an increased risk of injury. The air bag system is intended to reduce the risk of injury to passengers in the event of an auto accident by adjusting the force of the air bag upon deployment based on the passenger’s size. However, the defective Hyundai systems would turn off the passenger air bag even when the passenger weighed as much as 120 pounds. If approved by a judge, Hyundai will repurchase these vehicles from owners if they can’t be fixed, as part of the settlement.

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