It may seem rather remarkable, given the attention paid to safety by automobile manufacturers, but defective products still manage to find their way onto the market and into the hands of buyers. In the 1970s Ford’s Pinto had gas tanks that exploded upon impact. More recently, Audi and Toyota have had problems with unintended acceleration.
Since 1966 — when the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) arm of the Department of Transportation was first authorized to require automobile manufacturers to recall cars with serious safety defects — more than 390 million cars, trucks and other motorized vehicles have been recalled by the NHTSA.
Kia Motors is now the latest car company to gain this unwelcome spotlight. A wrongful death lawsuit against the Korean automobile manufacturer has been filed by the family of a woman who died after the Kia Optima she was riding in was rear-ended, causing the front passenger seat to collapse rearward. Her seat belt was buckled and the air bag deployed, but that didn’t prevent the woman from suffering fatal back and lung injuries.
Plaintiffs in the lawsuit claim Kia and JCI, the company that manufacturers its seats, knew the seats were defective. Evidence is based on the fact that both companies already have admitted this in other lawsuits. Plaintiffs claim the companies knew they had a defective product, did not test it sufficiently prior to installation and knowingly sold it to consumers. The automobile dealer who sold the vehicle in which the woman died has also been named in the suit.
Consumer history is replete with examples of defective products that cause fatalities. Common examples include children’s toys, and tools and machines such as farm equipment and lawn mowers. Defects can originate in the design phase or manufacturing process, but are most commonly discovered when the consumer actually uses the product.
Related resource: Madison Record, “Kia Motors sued on wrongful death claims; Suit says Optima’s seats collapsed in accident,” 3/21/12.