BREAKING: California Jury Clears Kia In $83M+ Trial Over Allegedly Defective Seat Belt

Posted by David Siegel on Jul 22, 2021 11:52:26 AM

Kia plaintiff closing

CVN screenshot of plaintiff attorney Jonathan Michaels delivering his closing argument

BREAKING UPDATE: The jury returned a defense verdict Thursday morning following roughly 90 minutes of deliberations. 

Santa Clara, CA - An attorney for a former aspiring pop star who allegedly suffered a traumatic brain injury in a rollover accident involving a 2015 Kia Forte asked a California state court jury on Wednesday to award over $83 million to his client due to the car’s supposedly defective seat belt.

Jonathan Michaels of MLG Attorneys At Law asked jurors to return a verdict in favor of Kamiya Perry following a lengthy trial that began in mid-June. Perry’s lawsuit against Kia Motors America claims the lack of a device called a pretensioner on the Kia Forte’s passenger side, which quickly tighten seat belt in a crash, caused Perry’s head to hit the car’s roof when it rolled over.

Michaels argues Kia knew the supposed design defect in the Forte’s seatbelt system posed a risk, but Kia’s attorney James Feeney of Dykema Gossett PLLC argued in his closing that the 2015 Forte’s seat belts met all applicable federal safety standards, and that a pretensioner would not have provided any meaningful protection to Perry.

The full trial is being webcast and recorded gavel-to-gavel by Courtroom View Network.

Michaels described to jurors the details of the 2019 accident, when a collision with another vehicle caused Perry’s car to rollover. He told jurors how Perry’s brother walked away from the accident with relatively minor injuries thanks to a pretensioner firing on his side of the vehicle.

The same accident caused severe bleeding in Perry’s brain, which Michaels said resulted in a brain injury that will require nearly 24/7 care for the rest of her life. He said Perry, who hoped to pursue a career as as pop star, now suffers from serious cognitive and memory issues along with major personality changes and emotional outbursts that are characteristic of TBI’s, and that tend to worsen with age.

He told jurors that Kia changed the pretensioner design in 2017 but failed to issue a recall for vehicles with the old design, leaving 395,000 vehicles on the road with the same seat belts that were in Perry’s vehicle.

Kia closing

CVN screenshot of defense attorney James Feeney delivering his closing argument

In his closing for Kia, James Feeney explained that the seat belts in the Kia Forte had locking mechanisms separate from pretenensioners, and that Kia designed the Forte’s seat belts based on data that he said showed pretensioners didn’t offer significant protections to front seat passengers like Perry who are riding in vehicles struck on the rear driver’s side.

He attempted to rebut Michaels’ citing 395,000 similar Kia vehicles on the road, telling jurors that those 395,000 cars travel over 6 billion miles in a year, but that none of them were involved in accidents where injuries were supposedly caused by lack of pretensioners.

Feeney argued that the fact Perry’s head supposedly did not hit the roof indicates her seatbelt worked properly, suggesting her head injuries were caused by the sudden stopping and rotation involved in the accident and were more consistent with hitting the driver’s body or his seat than hitting the roof.

The jury is currently deliberating, and CVN will provide an update as soon as a verdict is reached.

Judge Nancy E. Zeltzer is presiding over the trial.

The case is captioned Kamiya Perry v. Kia Motors America, case number 30-2019-01081281-CU-PL-CJC, in the Superior Court of California for Orange County.

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Topics: Products Liability, automotive, California