A putative class action lawsuit was filed against Kia Motors Corp. and its subsidiary last month. The suit was filed in a California federal court by consumers who say that one of the company’s vehicle models features gas tank defects that put passengers at risk of serious injury or death. The lawsuit was filed on behalf of consumers who purchased, leased or currently own a Kia model with a gas tank that is either not connected to the underside of the vehicle with reinforced straps or is not protected by a whole-tank shield. The suit also attempts to represent owners of Kia vehicles that have a plastic fuel pump service cover that is accessible from the passenger compartment of the car, according to the complaint.
It’s alleged in the lawsuit that the vehicles are defective and that their design can lead to gas tanks dislodging and rupturing in an accident, putting passengers at risk of a tank fire invading the passenger cabin. It’s contended that “the placement of the gas tanks, combined with the lack of standard safety measures such as reinforced straps, effectively mean that rear-seat passengers are sitting atop what amounts to a gas-fed bomb.”
A tragic incident in Texas is said to be an example of the potential risk that the Kia problem presents. In that incident, three passengers were driving in a Kia Soul and were completely engulfed in flames when the car’s gas tank exploded. It’s believed by some that the defects alleged in the California lawsuit were to blame for the incident. The lawsuit, which also names Kia Motors America Inc. as a Defendant, calls into question Kia’s marketing tactics that “heavily emphasize vehicle safety,” saying they mislead customers into purchasing or leasing vehicles of a quality different than they were promised, as well as paying more than they would have had they been aware of any gas tank defects, according to the complaint.
The named Plaintiffs in the suit, Constance Sims and Sammy Rodriguez, own versions of the Kia Soul. They reported the vehicles were selected in part because they wanted safely designed and manufactured vehicles. Both Plaintiffs say they saw advertisements before purchasing the vehicles and that safety and quality were “consistent themes” in the ads. The Plaintiffs contend that Kia has violated California’s Unfair Competition Law and the Consumer Legal Remedies Act and False Advertising Law, as well as committed a breach of implied warranty of merchantability and fraudulent concealment.
Steve W. Berman, managing partner of Hagens Berman, is the lead lawyer for the Plaintiffs in this case. Other lawyers representing the Plaintiffs are Elaine T. Byszewski, and Sean R. Matt of Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro and Mark P. Robinson Jr. of Robinson Calcagnie & Robinson. The case is pending in the United States District Court for the Central District of California.