‘Defective’ Vehicle Lawsuit Centralized in California

The Central District of California will hear a class action lawsuit alleging that certain Kia America Inc., Hyundai Motor America and Hyundai Kia America vehicles contain a “defect” making them more susceptible to theft. None of the parties in the case opposed centralization of the litigation, which involves starting systems and allegations that windows aren’t connected to vehicle security systems, but there was some discrepancy over the case’s final destination.

Plaintiffs Ann Brady and Leah Price brought the class action complaint against Kia America Inc., Hyundai Motor America and Hyundai Kia America in August. The plaintiffs alleged in court documents originally filed in U.S. District Court, the Southern District of Iowa, that all Kia and Hyundai models from 2011-2021 contain a “defect.” Hyundai vehicles from 2015-2022 are now included in the suit as well.

According to court documents filed by the plaintiffs, “on information and belief,” some of the vehicles in question do not have their windows connected to the security system. Therefore, plaintiffs say, thieves can break the window without triggering the alarm.

“Defendants knew their vehicles were defective in this manner but failed and refused to disclose these defects to customers, despite having the capability and means to do so,” plaintiffs continue.

Plaintiffs further allege in court documents that the vehicles do not conform with Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 114, which requires that vehicles have starting systems that prevent certain actions when the key is removed. Those actions include the activation of the engine and steering. Plaintiffs say that makes the vehicles worth less than they should be.

“The defective vehicles do not comply with this FMVSS in that when the key is removed from the starting system, neither steering nor forward self-mobility is prevented,” plaintiffs allege in court documents. “If it were, the vehicles would not be stolen at alarming rates.”

Ira Gabriel, Hyundai Motor America spokesperson, says the vehicles comply with “all applicable safety regulations.”

According to court documents filed by the Panel on Multidistrict Litigation, plaintiffs in the Western District of Missouri supported centralization in the Central District of California. Additional plaintiffs from another ten related actions supported centralization in Missouri, Wisconsin or Illinois. The plaintiffs in a related case in Ohio supported centralization in that state, with the same being said of a related case in Michigan. The Eastern District of Pennsylvania was yet another possible destination for the case, per input from involved parties.

The defendants in the case, according to the panel, supported centralization in Wisconsin, Illinois or Ohio. However, the panel decided on the Central District of California for the “convenience of the parties and witnesses,” and to promote “the just and efficient conduct of the litigation.” The primary defendants in the case are located in Orange County, Calif.

“By selecting Judge James V. Selna to preside over this litigation, we are selecting a skilled jurist who is well-versed in the nuances of complex and multidistrict automotive litigation to steer this matter on a prudent course,” the panel wrote.

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