Kia Cleared In $104.5M Seat Belt Defect Trial

A California state jury has cleared Kia Motors America Inc. of a family’s more than $100 million in claims that a defective seat belt caused their daughter’s brain injury in a crash.

The Orange County jury ruled that the automaker was not responsible for the traumatic brain injury suffered by Kamiya Perry, a 23-year-old aspiring singer who had just released an album when her family got into a serious crash on April 21, 2019.

The family’s lawyer, Jonathan Michaels, had told the jury in opening arguments that Perry’s injury occurred because Kia designed the 2015 Forte model in such a way that the seat belt pre-tensioner on the “far side” of a side impact would not fire. When the Perry family’s crash turned into a rollover, the pre-tensioner was not active and Kamiya Perry was slammed against the roof.

But ultimately, the jury answered no to three questions on Kia’s liability: whether the seat belt design’s risks outweighed its benefits; whether the Forte failed to perform as safely as an ordinary consumer would expect under foreseeable use; and whether Kia negligently failed to recall the car.

Michaels had told the jury that Perry would need lifetime medical care costing $19.6 million, among other economic damages of at least $21.4 million. He asked the jury in closing arguments to award $56 million for future loss of enjoyment and $6.5 million for future emotional distress, among other noneconomic damages totaling $83.1 million.

Kia’s lawyer, James Feeney, told the jury that the car was impacted, Kamiya Perry may have jerked left and shifted out of the shoulder portion of the passenger seat belt. “A pre-tensioner is not going to prevent anyone from slipping a shoulder belt under these circumstances. That’s why Kia wrote the software code the way it did.”


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