A proposed class action lawsuit has been filed against Hyundai Motor Co. and Kia Motor Co. in a Washington federal court. It’s claimed in the complaint that the automakers failed to warn consumers of severe engine defects that caused unexpected stalls and spontaneous fires in three car models.

Plaintiffs Linda Short and Olivia Parker said in their complaint that while Hyundai and Kia have recalled more than half a million of the vehicles for defective gasoline direct-injection engines, that action came only after pressure from federal safety investigators and lawmakers. The Plaintiffs said, “Consumers have every reason to suspect that a recall at this late date will not be an adequate solution to the defect.”

Ms. Short leased a 2013 Hyundai Tucson and Ms. Parker owned a 2014 Kia Soul. They seek to represent a national class of owners of 2011-2013 Tucsons, 2012-2016 Souls and 2011-2012 Kia Sportages. The complaint says a programming error in the catalytic converter of affected Souls can cause overheating and severe engine damage, which in turn can cause oil leaks and engine fires. The Plaintiffs also claimed that the engines of affected Tucsons and Sportages were made with defective oil seals, again causing oil leaks, engine failures and fires.

The Plaintiffs claimed the companies knew or should have known of the defects, saying Kia fixed the programming error in the Soul in 2016 and both companies were aware of numerous reports of defects in the Tucson and Sportage models. The Plaintiffs said further that the companies did not disclose the defects or begin issuing recalls until January, almost two years after the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) began investigating reports of engine fires in multiple car models and two months after company executives were asked to attend a Senate Commerce Committee hearing on the issue. It’s alleged in the complaint:

Plaintiffs are skeptical that the proposed recalls can or will actually repair the defects, based both on defendants’ track record of failed recall repairs for similar defects and on the nature of these defects and the proposed repairs.

Even if the defects are repaired, the publicity around the recalls will have reduced the cars’ resale value. Both companies are facing multiple suits alleging engine defects in their vehicles. A proposed class action filed in California in December alleges dangerous engine defects in seven Hyundai and Kia models, including the Soul and the Sportage. Hyundai is also facing a suit in New Jersey federal court claiming it hid piston defects in 2011-2016 Elantra models.

Plaintiffs Short and Parker are represented by Lynn Lincoln Sarko, Gretchen Freeman Cappio and Ryan McDevitt of Keller Rohrback LLP. The case is Short et al. v. Hyundai Motor America Inc. et al., (case number 2:19-cv-318) in the United States District Court for the Western District of Washington.

Beasley Allen lawyers investigate vehicle fire claims regularly. If you encounter a vehicle fire and would like it evaluated for class action defect purposes, contact Clay Barnett, a lawyer in our Atlanta office. Clay handles class action litigation involving automobiles for the firm.

Jere Beasley

Jere Beasley, the founding member of Beasley Allen Law Firm, has practiced law as an advocate for victims of wrongdoing since 1962. He was the lead Beasley Allen attorney in the record $11.9 billion award against ExxonMobil Corp. on behalf of the state of Alabama.


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