Cousins Trevor and Tanner Olson were driving a 2005 Hyundai Tiburon when they hit another vehicle head-on. According to lawyers representing their family, the steering knuckle on the car cracked and this allegedly caused it to lose control. Hyundai claimed that fireworks had been let off inside the vehicle, which caused the driver to swerve. The company alleges that evidence that could have proved its innocence was barred from the case.
The jury found in favor of the family and awarded them about $8 million in damages after a two-week trial. It claimed that Hyundai had shown "actual malice," according to Reuters. The jurors also slammed Hyundai with a further $240 million in punitive damages.
Hyundai told Reuters that it plans to appeal immediately and called the verdict "outrageous." Autoblog has received a copy of the automaker's official statement, detailing its plans to appeal this case. Scroll down to read it.
While a tragic accident, Hyundai firmly believes the jury's verdict in Olson vs. Hyundai is mistaken and award of damages at three times what was sought by the plaintiffs is outrageous and should be overturned as Hyundai is not at fault. Eyewitness testimony established – and experts for both sides agree – that fireworks exploded in the unbelted teenagers' vehicle immediately before the July 2, 2011 accident, which involved the driver losing control, crossing the median and crashing head-on into an oncoming Pontiac at a closing speed of approximately 140 miles per hour – a speed confirmed by experts for both sides. Hyundai believes the jury's view of the evidence was distorted by a series of erroneous rulings by the Court, the most egregious of which prevented the jury from reviewing performance testing conducted by renowned failure analysis experts that would have disproven the plaintiffs' theory of the case – a theory derived by a local resident with no previous automotive experience. Hyundai will seek an immediate appeal.
The 140 mph closing speed head-on collision crushed the steering knuckles of both vehicles involved, a Hyundai Tiburon and a Pontiac Grand Am. According to the local resident retained by the plaintiffs, the steering knuckle in the Hyundai spontaneously cracked and failed immediately before the accident. Had that been the case, Hyundai can prove that the vehicle would have veered to the right – not to the left as happened in the crash – yet this crucial evidence was excluded by the Court. The plaintiffs' expert had no explanation for the fact that the same part in the Pontiac, made by another manufacturer, also failed in the accident. Hyundai remains firm in its belief that the failure of the steering knuckle was not a cause, but a result of this tragic accident.
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