Lightfoot Defends Hyundai Motor America

Lightfoot partner Harlan Prater was lead counsel in defending Hyundai Motor America and Hyundai Motor Company in a personal injury case in Pulaski County, Virginia. Assisting Harlan were local attorneys Andrew Cooke (Flaherty Sensabaugh Bonasso) & Tim Kirtner (Gilmer, Sadler, Ingram, Sutherland & Hutton).

Plaintiffs Vanessa & Keith Duncan, on behalf of their 16-year-old son, alleged that his 2008 Hyundai Tiburon’s side air bag sensing unit was defectively designed, and that the driver’s side-impact air bag should have deployed during his wreck. Duncan lost control of his car around 11:00 p.m. on a dark and cold Saturday night while traveling on a winding, rural Virginia road. His car slid sideways down a steep embankment and then struck a tree on the driver’s side at roughly a 30° roll angle. Duncan suffered a significant brain injury in the wreck, and plaintiffs maintained that Hyundai should have located the air driver’s air bag sensing unit on the B-pillar, rather than under the driver’s seat, so that the driver’s side air bag would have deployed and prevented his injury. Hyundai presented evidence, however, that the Tiburon’s air bag system complied with all Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards, was thoroughly tested by Hyundai, and was reasonably safe. Hyundai further showed that, given the angle of the vehicle’s impact with the tree, the driver’s air bag should not have deployed and, in any event, would not have prevented Duncan’s injury if it had deployed.

The trial began on August 21, 2012, and tried for three weeks. Plaintiffs called 21 witnesses and Hyundai called 12. After many hours during 2 ½ days of deliberations, the jury was deadlocked. The Judge declared a mistrial, and the case will be retried in 2013.

Attorneys mentioned in this post:
Harlan I. Prater, IV Thumbnail Harlan I. Prater, IV

Practice areas mentioned:
Product Liability
Automotive