POLSON, Mont. (AP) — A Montana jury has ordered Hyundai to pay $240 million in punitive damages after finding that a manufacturing defect in a Hyundai vehicle caused a crash that killed two Missoula cousins in July 2011.
The award handed down late Tuesday was on top of $8.6 million in actual damages and lost earnings the jury awarded to the families of 19-year-old Trevor Olson and 14-year-old Tanner Olson. The cousins died when their 2005 Hyundai Tiburon slammed head-on into another car in 2011.
It's unclear if the punitive damages will stand. Montana has a $10 million cap on such damages, but that's being challenged after a District Court judge in Butte ruled it wasn't high enough to deter future wrongdoing by wealthy companies.
Hyundai Motor America released a statement Wednesday saying it believes the jury's verdict is mistaken and a damage award of three times what was sought by the plaintiffs is "outrageous and should be overturned." The company plans an immediate appeal.
The lawsuit alleged that a defective steering knuckle in the 2005 Hyundai Tiburon that Trevor Olson was driving caused the car to suddenly veer into an oncoming lane and crash into another car. A passenger in that car, 21-year-old Stephanie Nicole Parker-Shepherd of Arlee, was killed while her husband and two children were severely injured.
Hyundai issued a recall in 2005 for 111 Tiburons manufactured over a one-month period that year over a steering issue, but the problem was different than the one cited at trial and it's unclear if the teens were driving a recalled car.