SANTA ANA, Calif.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--The personal injury law firm of Thompson Law Offices, P.C. has filed a lawsuit on behalf of Gabrielle Lawton of Kansas City, Mo. against Hyundai Motor America, Inc. for its failure to equip her Hyundai Elantra with an industry standard anti-theft ignition immobilizer, making it easier to steal, and her the target of a violent crime. As a result, Lawton was shot in the chest and nearly killed while thieves were attempting to steal her car.
The lawsuit, which was filed in the Superior Court of Orange County, Calif., alleges that from 2011 to 2021 Hyundai manufactured, marketed, distributed, and sold vehicles without ignition immobilizers, an anti-theft device that protects against theft as it only allows the engine to turn on when it detects the presence of a “mated” key fob to a specific vehicle. If there is a match, the car starts. If there is not a match, the car does not start and is rendered inoperable.
In 2021, there was an unprecedented spike in Hyundai car thefts nationwide after the “Kia Boyz,” a tech-savvy group of teenagers who share videos on social media, demonstrated how easy it was to steal Hyundai and Kia vehicles using just a screwdriver and USB plug.
The videos quickly went viral resulting in an increased danger to the public, especially by juveniles who took part in TikTok challenges and used the stolen cars for joyrides that resulted in fatalities, grave injuries, and property damage.
On the morning of April 28, 2023, Lawton was awakened early by the cries of her hungry baby. On the way to the kitchen to get a bottle of milk for her son, Lawton heard voices coming from the driveway where her Hyundai Elantra was parked. She looked through the window and saw thieves trying to steal her car. She tried to scare them off by yelling out a window when gunfire suddenly erupted into Lawton’s home with one bullet striking her in the chest near her right lung, where it remains today.
“Hyundai has sold millions of unsafe cars and SUVs to unsuspecting customers without warning them of the heightened safety risk posed by purchasing its vehicles because they don’t come standard with the ignition immobilizer,” said Bobby Thompson, an attorney and co-founder of Thompson Law Offices representing Lawton. “Hyundai chose to put profits over customers’ safety simply because they did not want to spend $200 on an anti-theft device and need to be held accountable. Hyundai put a target on the back of every Hyundai car owner and added insult to injury by refusing to fix the problem it created.”
An ignition immobilizer is a standard anti-theft car part that is present in 96 percent of cars made in the last 20 years and serves as a deterrent to would-be car thieves. In contrast, in 2015, only 26 percent of Hyundai vehicles came equipped with an ignition immobilizer.
The lawsuit claims Hyundai was aware that its cars were at higher risk of theft prior to Lawton’s injuries because it had been notified by state Attorney Generals, warranty returns, consumer complaints, and public health officials, among others, that its customers and others were being injured or killed because of lack of ignition immobilizers.
The lawsuit also states that the lack of ignition immobilizers violates Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 114, which states that “Each vehicle must have a starting system which, whenever the key is removed from the starting system prevents: (a) The normal activation of the vehicle’s engine or motor, and (b) Either steering, or forward self-mobility, of the vehicle, or both.”
In Kansas City alone, 1,207 Hyundai cars and SUVs were stolen in 2019 compared to 6,120 in 2022, an increase of 288 percent.
Hyundai did not include ignition immobilizers on most vehicles between 2011 and 2022 including the Accent, Elantra, Elantra GT, Genesis Coupe, Kona, Palisade, Santa Fe Sport, Santa Fe, Santa Fe XL, Sonata, Tucson, and Veloster. Similarly, Kia cars also lack ignition immobilizers including the Forte, K5, Optima, Rio, Sedona, Soul, Sorento, and Sportage.
“When Hyundai chose to gamble with safety, it bet the lives of Americans,” Thompson added.
Hyundai and Kia owners can learn more by visiting www.violentcartheft.com or calling (650) 513-6111.
About Thompson Law Offices
Thompson Law Offices (TLO) is a premier personal injury law firm dedicated to advocating for the rights and well-being of individuals who have suffered injuries or harm due to the negligence or wrongful actions of others. TLO's team of highly skilled and compassionate attorneys possess a deep understanding of personal injury law, allowing them to effectively navigate complex legal processes and fight tirelessly on behalf of their clients. Whether a person has been involved in a car accident, suffered a workplace injury, or experienced any other form of personal injury, TLO strives to deliver top-notch legal services tailored to your unique circumstances.