A class action lawsuit has been filed against Kia over the design of its split folding rear bench seat in certain newer model Soul vehicles, alleging that the design leaves the rear passenger without access to a seatbelt and at risk of serious injuries or death in the event of an accident.
The complaint (PDF) was filed by James Maurico in the U.S. District Court Northern District of California on April 27, alleging that the manufacturer promoted the Kia Soul vehicles as a “marvel of adaptability”, allowing vehicle owners to fit passengers and luggage at the same time. However, a 60/40 split on the folding rear bench seat makes the passenger seatbelt latch inaccessible.
Maurico seeks class action status to pursue damages on behalf of similarly situated owners and lessee’s of model year 2020 and 2021 SK3 Soul vehicles, alleging that Kia continues to market and sell the vehicles, despite known substantial safety hazards.
According to the allegation raised in the lawsuit, the model year 2020 and 2021 Kia Soul vehicles contain a defective and dangerous design with the folding rear bench seats, which allows the rear passenger seat behind the driver to fold down. However, when the seat is folded down, the seat belt adapter is no longer available to the rear passenger occupant, eliminating a functional rear seat while the feature is in use, or forcing the rear passenger occupant to dangerously go without a seatbelt.
The Kia Soul class action lawsuit indicates that the manufacturer used false slogans intended to deceive customers who would otherwise not know the rear seatbelt buckle is inaccessible when the split bench seat is folded down, and that members were not reasonably able to discover the problem until after purchasing or leasing the vehicles.
Maurico claims Kia knew of the rear seat belt inaccessibility defect during the design, manufacturing and marketing of the models, yet sells the vehicles free from defects in material workmanship, factory preparation and with false representations such as “best in class” and provides “peace of mind you can trust.”
The lawsuit indicates that an estimated 10,000 vehicles were sold throughout the United States, demanding Kia provide a remedy for the rear seat belt inaccessibility, and pay additional sums to owners for the loss in vehicle value and loss of use of some of its features.
Maurico’s class action raises allegations against Kia Motors for breach of implied warranty, breach of expressed warranty, violating the Song-Beverly Consumer Warranty Act, false advertising, and violations of unfair competition laws.
The lawsuit comes just a day after Kia was criticized by the Center for Auto Safety, who released an investigative report this week presenting more than 3,000 customer reports of Hyundai and Kia engine fires, along with a petition for the NHTSA to investigate further.
To date, Kia and Hyundai have recalled more than 600,000 vehicles, and paid $210 million in settlements to prevent criminal and civil charges from being filed by the federal government.