Alleging Fire Danger, Law Firm’s Pasadena Team Files Class Action Lawsuit against Hyundai, Kia

Published : Friday, December 21, 2018 | 5:53 AM

A Pasadena-based team of lawyers representing automobile consumers has filed a class-action lawsuit against automobile makers Hyundai and Kia, alleging certain vehicle models have a dangerous defect that they said could cause premature engine failure and spontaneous fires in the engines, putting owners at risk of injury or death.

Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro LLP, in a complaint filed in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, said the defect affects Hyundai and Kia vehicles equipped with certain gasoline direct injection (GDI) engines, and “presents consumers with an unacceptable risk of their vehicles spontaneously bursting into flames.”

The law firm listed some of the affected models, including the 2011-2019 Hyundai Sonata, 2013-2019 Hyundai Santa Fe and Santa Fe Sport, 2011- 2019 Kia Optima, 2012-2019 Kia Sorento, 2012-2019 Kia Soul and 2011-2019 Kia Sportage.

The defect, according to the suit, prevents proper oil flow to the engine’s vital moving parts, such as connecting rods and bearings, causing premature wear and failure. When the parts fail, the engine seizes and stops running during operation. Engine seizure often causes these internal parts to break and knock a hole in the engine, permitting fluids to leak and ignite a fire.

Along with creating a severe driving hazard and increasing the chance of injury or death, the end result of the engine defect is “serious, extensive and expensive damage to the engine and/or total loss of the vehicle,” according to the suit.

The lawsuit states that more than 350 consumer complaints have been submitted to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) detailing non-collision events in which the vehicles have caught fire – a direct result of Hyundai and Kia’s concealment of the defect, according to attorneys.

“Hyundai and Kia are putting their own consumers in grave danger of spontaneous fires, loss of property and personal injury, and alarmingly they have also chosen to actively conceal the defect, failing to appear before Congress to answer questions,” said Steve Berman, managing partner and co-founder of Hagens Berman. “We believe Hyundai and Kia are failing consumers in every sense of the word. Owners deserve safe cars, and Hyundai and Kia need to take responsibility for this widespread issue, instead of waiting for another fire to start.”

The law firm also said Hyundai’s and Kia’s executives refused to appear after Congress summoned them to answer questions about why some of the affected vehicles spontaneously burst into flames.

According to the lawsuit, Hyundai and Kia knew about the defect prior to sale of the affected cars and knew that this defect posed an “unreasonable risk.”

The automakers have concealed the defect, minimized the scope, cause, and dangers of the defect with inadequate recalls, and refused to investigate, address, and remedy the defect as it pertains to affected vehicles, the law firm said.

The lawsuit seeks to recoup losses vehicle owners have faced, including expensive repairs, car rentals, car payments, towing charges, time off work and other miscellaneous costs.

Plaintiffs allege that they did not receive the benefit of their bargain in purchasing these vehicles because, had they known about the engine defect, they would not have purchased the vehicles at all or would have paid less for them. Attorneys also seek injunctive relief that could include an order requiring Hyundai and Kia to repair, recall and/or replace the affected vehicles.

The suit names eight plaintiffs who all “purchased their affected vehicles under the assumption they were safe and reliable” and not prone to engine fire; two suffered spontaneous engine fires caused by the defect, and several others brought their vehicles believing the vehicles had passed inspection, only to suffer engine failure a short time later.

A plaintiff from Georgia stated how the car he bought for his teenage daughter’s use erupted in fire in November while the daughter was driving.

Later inspection of the vehicle’s engine confirmed the vehicle’s connecting rod bearing failed, resulting in it breaking and punching a hole in the engine, ultimately causing the fire, according to the lawsuit.

“This risk of serious injury or death is utterly unacceptable,” Berman said. “We intend to do everything in our power to force Hyundai and Kia to address this imminent danger.”

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