News & Insights

Superior Court of California, Orange County Jury Sides with Kia America in Product Liability Suit

July 26, 2021

Dykema, a leading national law firm, successfully defended Kia America in a product liability case in the Superior Court of California, Orange County. On Thursday, July 22, 2021, after a two-month trial, the jury deliberated for just over 60 minutes before returning a 12-0 defense verdict in favor of Kia. Plaintiff sought more than $103M in damages.

In August 2019, Plaintiff filed suit following a rollover accident involving a 2015 Kia Forte in which a passenger allegedly suffered a traumatic brain injury. Plaintiff claimed that Kia knew about an alleged defect in the vehicle’s passenger side seatbelt system. Plaintiff claims the available seat belt pretensioner should have deployed during either the side impact or subsequent rollover crash and had the pretensioner deployed, plaintiff would not have suffered her diffuse axonal brain injury.

The Dykema trial team of Jim Feeney and Dommond Lonnie argued that the restraint systems in the 2015 Kia Forte met all applicable federal safety standards and design of system was not defective. The team also explained that the seat belts in the vehicle had locking mechanisms separate from pretensioners, and that Kia designed the Forte’s seat belts based on data showing that pretensioners did not offer significant protection to front-seat passengers like Plaintiff who experience a far side lateral impact at 16.2 G’s of force.

Furthermore, the Dykema trial team informed jurors that 395,000 similar Kia vehicles are on the road, having traveled more than 6 Billion miles in a year, but that none of them were involved in accidents where injuries were supposedly caused by lack of deployment of the seat belt pretensioners. They also argued that the resulting head injuries were more consistent with that of an incident where the passenger would have hit the driver’s body or the driver’s seat rather than hitting the roof, thereby indicating that the seatbelt worked as expected.

This successful defense follows the February 2020 victory in which Dykema helped Kia secure a defense verdict in another product liability case, Stroud et al. v. Kia Motors America Inc. et al., where the plaintiff in that case sought more than $87M in damages. Dykema’s defense of that matter resulted in recognition in the Daily Journal as one of the “Top Defense Verdicts of 2020” in California.