Hyundai, the car manufacturer, has been ordered to pay $240 million in punitive damages by a Montana jury after a manufacturing defect caused a crash that killed two cousins in 2011.
The massive award handed down in Montana on Tuesday, was in addition to the actual damages of $8.6 million that the company was ordered to pay to the families of 19-year-old Trevor Olson and 14-year-old Tanner Olson.
The two boys died when their 2005 Hyundai Tiburon collided head-on with another car. Hyundai Motors America released a statement saying it believes the jury’s verdict is wrong, and a damage award of three times what was sought by the plaintiffs is “outrageous and should be overturned.”
The case relates to a defective steering knuckle on the car that Trevor Olson was driving; this allegedly caused the vehicle to suddenly swerve and veer into the opposite lane, crashing into another car. A passenger in the other car was also killed, and her husband and two children were seriously injured.
Back in 2005, Hyundai recalled 111 Tiburons over a steering issue, but the problem was not the same as the one cited in the current Hyundai damages case. Hyundai, wanting to defend its position, argued that it was most likely that a firecracker set off in the Hyundai caused the driver to suddenly react and crash.
The company’s statement, which was defensive in tone, said: “Eyewitness testimony established — and experts for both sides agree — that fireworks exploded in the unbelted teenagers’ vehicle immediately before the… accident.”
But the Montana police contend that the defect was to blame and Highway Patrol Trooper Terrance Rosenbaum testified that he found no evidence that any fireworks had been ignited in the car.
The final outcome of the current Hyundai damages case remains to be seen. What is certain is that the company will want to dispose of the matter as soon as possible and hope to avoid any similar lawsuits in the future.