News & Insights

Dykema Successfully Defends Kia Motors In Products Liability Case

June 30, 2010


Dykema’s Automotive Industry Team successfully defended Kia Motors Corporation in a multi-million dollar wrongful death action. On June 25, a Cobb County, GA jury ruled in favor of Kia, rejecting the product liability claims filed by the plaintiffs who had sought a combined $4 million and an unspecified amount of damages for pain and suffering.

The wrongful death action arose from a 2006 automobile accident where Evelyn LaFleur was involved in a frontal collision in Columbia County, Georgia, which resulted in her death. LaFleur was driving her 1999 Kia Sportage at the time of the accident. Her daughters, Brenda Godbee and Carol Chick, claimed that the Kia Sportage’s driver airbag was defective and caused LaFleur’s death. Godbee and Chick further asserted that Kia failed to adequately warn LaFleur about the alleged defective condition and design of the vehicle. With respect to Kia of Augusta, only, the plaintiffs also alleged that it negligently misrepresented the overall safety of the Kia Sportage in selling the vehicle.

Dykema argued that the 1999 Sportage, including its overall structure and airbag system was properly designed, safe, complied with federal motor vehicle safety standards and did not contain any deficiencies. Additionally, Kia contended that it provided adequate airbag warnings on the sun visor and in the owner’s manual regarding the dangers of being positioned excessively close to the steering wheel.

"We are very pleased that the jury took into careful account all of the evidence presented in this case and determined that the Kia’s airbag was not defective," said James Feeney, member of Dykema’s Automotive Industry Team. "The accident was tragic but the vehicle operated safely as designed."

James Feeney tried the case with Brittany M. Schultz from Dykema and local counsel Swift Currie McGhee & Hiers.

With more than 75 years of experience representing companies in the automotive industry, Dykema has one of the most extensive automotive legal practices in the United States. Dykema lawyers regularly represent automotive companies headquartered throughout the world. The attorneys counsel suppliers and OEMs in multi-million-dollar mergers and acquisitions, in a broad array of automobile product liability, commercial and supply chain management litigation, in class action litigation in the most challenging jurisdictions, and before the U.S. Department of Transportation and other federal and state departments and agencies. In addition, Dykema’s government specialists petition Congress and the Executive branch for legislative and regulatory relief on behalf of automotive clients. For more information on Dykema’s Automotive Industry Team, please visit