When Kamiya Perry’s family purchased a Kia Forte for her, she never dreamed the airbag and seat belt lock would be faulty in an accident. But that’s exactly what happened to the 23-year-old singer.
Now, Ms. Perry is suffering from permanent damage to her brain and vision, and her lawyer, Jonathan Michaels, has filed not only a state complaint against Kia Motors America but also a national class action lawsuit against automakers Kia, Hyundai, FCA, Mitsubishi, Acura, Honda and Toyota as well as ZF TRW, which designs, manufactures and sells the airbag system.
“Not only have Kamiya’s activities been curtailed, but her family is middle income and have had to change their entire work schedule to take care of her,” said Mr. Michaels, founding attorney with MLG Attorneys at Law in Los Angeles.
Ms. Perry is one of the lucky ones who was merely injured, not killed. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the defects are responsible for at least four deaths to date. The NHTSA declined to comment on the open investigation.
“On February 21, 2018, Hyundai and ZF-TRW finally conceded its awareness that the ZF-TRW defective airbag control unit (ACU) within its vehicles were safety device failures resulting in injuries in automobile crashes which should have been prevented,” wrote Mr. Michaels in his July 15 complaint.
Some 12.3 million vehicles have the faulty ZF-TRW ACUs, according to court records. “Our office receives calls every week from families who have experienced the exact same defect in cars that are not on the investigation list,” said Mr. Michaels
This latest defect comes on the heels of the Takata Corp. airbag scandal, which resulted in the recall of 42 million cars, the 2017 bankruptcy of Takata and lawsuits filed in both California Northern District Court and Ohio Southern District Court.
“The defective Takata airbags do not deploy on impact,” wrote Attorney Charles A. Bonner in his Feb. 17, 2015, federal complaint. “This failure to deploy has resulted in injuries and deaths across the U.S. Defendants Takata and GM, and each of them, knew of the deadly airbag defect at least 13 years ago, but did nothing to prevent ongoing injury and loss of life.”
Filed in the Central District Court in Los Angeles last month, Ryan Baldwin v. Kia Motor America, Inc alleges the automakers knew of the ZF-TRW defect since 2011 but promoted the cars as safe and have refused to issue a recall because of economics.
“Corporate compliance in our country is slipping,” Mr. Michaels told PacerMonitor News.
Under federal law, car manufacturers are required to issue a recall within five days of learning of a defect but according to the complaint, only partial recalls were issued by FCA, Kia and Hyundai.
“Plaintiffs were exposed to and consumed Defendants’ advertisements and marketing materials prior to purchasing or leasing the Class Vehicles,” according to court records. “The misleading statements and omissions about Class Vehicles’ safety in the Defendants’ advertising and marketing materials influenced Plaintiffs’ decisions to purchase or lease Class Vehicles.”
“These days, cars are incredibly complex vehicles. The defective car part has to be corrected by the manufacturer who made it,” Mr. Michaels said. “If your car is on the impacted list, you should be calling the manufacturer and insist that a recall be issued.”
Whether an impacted car is repurchased at the price paid or at the value of the car at the time of the recall is typically decided on a case-by-case basis and depends on how the manufacturer decides to address the recall.
“Very rarely does a recall result in a refund,” said Mr. Michaels. “Most often a recall results in repair or maintenance.”
In Ms. Perry’s case, Kia may well end up wishing it had given her a refund, or at least fixed her car before disaster struck.