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Kia Motors Hit with $40 Million Wrongful Death Verdict for Defective Seatbelt

July 7, 2011
Colson Hicks Eidson

An Alabama jury awarded $40 million in a wrongful death lawsuit against Kia Motors stemming from a defective seat belt buckle that led to a fatal car crash in 2004. The accident killed a 16-year-old girl when the crash ejected her from her 1999 Kia Sephia. The wrongful death suit filed on behalf of the victim alleged that the seat belt unlatched and failed to restrain the victim in the impact, according to

The girl’s father purchased the Kia used and took it to a Kia dealership for servicing and to have all recall work performed. What he did not know is that the seat belt buckle in Kia Sephia models from 1995 to 2000 had a safety defect. The seat belts in his daughter’s vehicle were prone to “false latching,” causing the driver to think the belt locked into place when it did not.

Kia issued a safety recall to fix the seat belts, but only for 1995 through 1998 models. Kia’s failure to recall 1999 and 2000 models meant approximately 251,000 cars with defective seat belts were still on the road, including the victim’s vehicle. Almost seven years ago to the day, July 4, 2004, the girl lost control of her vehicle and ejected from the seat. She later succumbed to her injuries.

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