A Montana jury has levied a $248 million ruling against Hyundai in the case of a crash that killed two occupants in July 2011. The automaker plans to appeal the ruling.

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.
Show full PR text
Statement by Hyundai Motor America

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.

Technical Background
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.

# # #


I'm reporting this comment as:

Reported comments and users are reviewed by Autoblog staff 24 hours a day, seven days a week to determine whether they violate Community Guideline. Accounts are penalized for Community Guidelines violations and serious or repeated violations can lead to account termination.


    • 1 Second Ago
  • 55 Comments
      Neez
      • 7 Months Ago
      The plantiff lawyers did a great job during jury selection. Choose the most uneducated people they can find with victim mentality, working crappy deadend jobs or unemployed, usually works in your favor to getting big judgements. This is a stupid claim, at 70mph, how did they know the steering knuckles broke before the crash?? The kids were unbelted, if they died, there's the answer right there.
      GR
      • 7 Months Ago
      I work in law and I am very very surprised to hear that this "local resident with no previous automotive experience" was allowed to testify as an expert in court. In criminal law, the field I work in, the opposing counsel would easily refute that the person is not qualified as an expert and the judge would have to agree based on the lack of experience in the field of testimony. Let's also combine the uncontested evidence here: - Hyundai was going 140 MPH before impact. - Fireworks were set off in the car BEFORE the accident. - Neither of the deceased in the Hyundai even wore seat belts. All of these work in concert to really paint the picture: these guys in the Hyundai were absolutely reckless and caused this accident out of egregious disregard of any reasonable measure of safety. I mean, I don't think I'd even do this if I was on acid-laced, PCP dipped mushrooms. Honestly, what's worse than the jury is the idiot judge on this case. As the article started, the judge excluded actual expert testimony yet allowed a layman to testify as one. The Court of Appeals should have a field day with this dunce of a judge's rulings. Also, nearly a quarter of a BILLION dollars in punitive damage fees? Seriously? Even with the evidence (140 MPH, fireworks, no seat belts) in this case as it is? What the hell is wrong with the legal system in Montana? If the plaintiffs win this case by some outrageous failure of the legal system, I hope the driver (or his family) of the Pontiac sues them and takes it all from them. He's the actual victim here.
        GR
        • 7 Months Ago
        @GR
        Okay, I missed the closing speed of 140 MPH (had a hard time believing a Tiburon can go that fast). Still, this is outrageous.
          Jeremy
          • 7 Months Ago
          @GR
          Closing speed is the speed of both vehicles added together, methinks.
        CJ_313
        • 7 Months Ago
        @GR
        Could it be discrimination? I've heard that Montana is very pro-"Americana"
      artspeedperformance
      • 7 Months Ago
      And I ask, who ultimately pays for these obscene verdicts?
      b.rn
      • 7 Months Ago
      Does anyone know how to locate the actual court documents? This is so absurd, I'm having a hard time believing it. There must be more to the story.
      Camaroman101
      • 7 Months Ago
      I dont get this, is everyone who gets into an accident allowed to sue? Why does no one take responsibility for their own actions anymore?
      Dynamho
      • 7 Months Ago
      Ridiculous judgment.
      b.rn
      • 7 Months Ago
      I tend to be pretty critical of Hyundai, but I find even the $8M part of the verdict to be absurd. What are we not being told?
      Basil Exposition
      • 7 Months Ago
      I hate to comment on cases where I haven't heard all the details from both sides, but unless a Hyundai employee under company direction was dispatched specifically to murder these two, I would have to agree with Hyundai that $248m is indeed outrageous.
      bK
      • 7 Months Ago
      Steering knuckle fail? You get what you pay for.
        thequebecerinfrance
        • 7 Months Ago
        @bK
        Talking about Hyundai here, not Chrysler.
        icemilkcoffee
        • 7 Months Ago
        @bK
        Reading fail, on your part. The driver lost control because somebody was playing with firecrackers inside his car. The steering knuckle was found to be broken after the accident which involved a closing speed of 140mph. The jury chose to believe that the steering knuckle just broke on its own before the accident.
      Billy
      • 7 Months Ago
      Both car's steering knuckle broke in the accident. Reading the information on the case the car was going 140 mph (is that possible in Tiburon?) they were "unbelted" and setting off fireworks in the car yet this is somehow Hyundai's fault?
      Karfreek
      • 7 Months Ago
      Toyota Pays $1 Billion in fines Hyundai gets hit with $248mm GM only has to pay $35mm for covering up the ignition switch problem? WTF?
        1454
        • 7 Months Ago
        @Karfreek
        What's funny is that the only one that was actually proven to have malice involved is GM. Then, if you take the 35mill from the x billion we were screwed over on, GM still cleans up. Just goes to show how stupid our nationalistic citizens are.
      FIDTRO
      • 7 Months Ago
      Apart from the fact they make and sell sh|t cars, Hyundai isn't in the wrong here and the verdict is absurd.
        BB79826
        • 7 Months Ago
        @FIDTRO
        They make and sell cars that don't have recalls and have the highest owner loyalty in the entire auto industry. Trolls are so boring, pick a different automaker.
        Luke Scrase
        • 7 Months Ago
        @FIDTRO
        That's the second nice thing you have said about Hyundai this week FIDTRO, are you feeling ok?
    • Load More Comments