Kia Pays $40M Compensation for Death Caused by Faulty Seat Belt Buckle
During the accident her seat belt buckle failed, Tiffany was ejected from the vehicle and died from her injuries. Kia was subject to a five-year lawsuit and two appeals to the Alabama Supreme Court, who finally returned a $40 million wrongful death verdict.
The reason for why the manufacturer was found responsible for the incident is that the seat belt buckles in model years 1995 through 2000 Kia Sephia and Sportage vehicles had a safety defect which caused them to be susceptible to "false latching”. And though back in 2002, Kia issued a safety defect recall, that only included model years 1995 through 1998 vehicles (189,000 cars).
However, 251,000 cars kept having the defect, as they belonged to model year 1999 and 2000, which were not subject to the aforementioned recall. The automaker only expanded the recall in August 2004 to include model year 1999 and 2000 cars.
"Tiffany's father would never have given his little girl that car if he thought it was unsafe. While the jury's verdict does not change the fact that Tiffany's death could have been and should have been prevented, hopefully it will result in a change in business practices so that when a product manufacturer knows that its product has a safety defect, it will make full and complete disclosure and promptly recall all of the defective products and not just some of them," said Skip Finkbohner, who tried the case with Toby Brown, Robert Mitchell and David Wirtes of Cunningham Bounds, LLC.