The KIA Motors, one of the most reputable automobile makers, has almost found a loophole in a United States law which can dent both its coffers and reputation. At least, KIA Motors believes that it has. After the automobile giant was held responsible for a fatal accident involving its car, KIA maintains that it cannot be held responsible for a faulty car design as according to prevalent laws, its car design is faultless. People driving a KIA car died in a collision when the Airbag failed to deploy at the point of impact between the two vehicles. The Texas court imposed a hefty fine on KIA but KIA has been maintaining that the airbag does not come under the purview of the personal injury law. In fact, KIA has pointed out that its products are law-compliant.
In a fatal accident in 2006, Andrea Ruiz, who was driving a KIA Spectra, died when her car collided head-on with another car. Her daughter, who was sitting in the front seat, escaped with a few injuries. Now, her daughter was saved most probably because the airbag had properly deployed at the moment of collision but Andrea’s airbag did not deploy. So, the failure of the airbag to deploy was rightly held to be the reason Andrea died of fatal injuries.
A Texas court imposed a fine of $887,400, and pre- and post-judgment interest on KIA Motors as it found KIA to be at least partially responsible for the death. The court ruled that KIA Motors had been negligent in both making and maintaining the car which met the accident. However, KIA refused to accept the verdict and said that its car design totally complied with the federal crashworthiness standards. According to KIA, “Under the government standards defense in Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code section 82.008, a manufacturer is not liable on a design-defect theory if the product complies with an applicable federal safety standard. This is a crashworthiness case, and it is undisputed that the Kia vehicle complied with the federal safety standard for crashworthiness, including the standard for airbags.”
KIA further points out that according to section 82.008, a car must comply with specific safety standards and so, its cars have already met the security standards. So, it cannot be held accountable for the mishap. In essence, KIA refuses to take responsibility for Mrs. Ruiz’s death. The court had held KIA partially responsible; the other share of responsibility was on the other car driver Tomlin, who was driving the other car. Tomlin was, according to the court, 55 percent responsible for the accident while KIA was 45 percent responsible. But KIA wanted to wash its hands off by pointing out that airbags cannot be interpreted as part of a car design.
Car manufacturers in many parts of the world maintain that airbags cannot be held as part of the design. Whether the point is logical or not can be another debate; but amidst the whole show of arguments and counter arguments, justice may be actually delayed.