Hyundai Tiburon Lawsuit Results in $240M Award Over Steering Problems

A Montana jury has awarded $248 million to the family of two teens who died in an auto accident that was allegedly caused by steering problems in a Hyundai Tiburon.

The verdict included $8.6 million in compensatory damages for the families of Trevor Olson and his cousin Tanner Olson, with an additional $240 million in punitive damages awarded against Hyundai Motor Corp., which are designed to punish the auto maker for gross negligence.

According to allegations raised at trial, the teens died in a 2001 crash that occurred after Trevor Olson lost control of a 2005 Hyundai Tiburon. The family claimed that the vehicle’s steering knuckle was defective and broke, causing the driver to lose control and swerve into oncoming traffic. As a result of the accident, 21 year-old Stephanie Nicole Parker-Shepherd was also killed in the other vehicle, and her husband and two children suffered severe injuries.

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Hyundai officials have indicated that they plan to appeal the verdict, indicating to Bloomberg News that the accident was caused by fireworks going off in the car just before the crash. However, neither the Montana Highway Patrol nor the Montana State Crime Lab found evidence supporting Hyundai’s claim.

In 2005, about 111 Hyundai Tiburons were recalled due to steering problems, though it is unclear whether the car involved in the accident was among those impacted by the recall.

Following about 12 hours of deliberation, a jury in the Monathan Twentieth Judicial District Court returned a verdict in favor of the plaintiffs on May 13, finding that the auto maker acted with “actual malice.”

Montana does have a cap on damage awards, which may result in the jury’s decision being overridden by a $10 million limit set by the state’s legislature. However, that cap is currently being challenged following a recent ruling by a district court judge, which found that the cap was too low to deter wrongdoing by wealthy defendants.

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