Hyundai to Appeal $240 Million Montana Crash Jury Verdict

Hyundai Motor Co. said it will appeal a $240 million jury verdict awarded to the families of two Montana teenagers killed in a 2011 crash blamed on a steering defect.

A state court jury in Polson, Montana, yesterday found that Trevor Olson lost control of a 2005 Hyundai Tiburon after a defective steering knuckle broke. He and his cousin Tanner Olson were killed in the crash. Along with $240 million in punitive damages, the jury awarded the families about $8 million in actual damages.

Hyundai wasn’t at fault and the verdict is “outrageous,” Jim Trainor, a company spokesman, said in an e-mailed statement. The accident was caused by fireworks exploding in the car just before the accident, he said.

“The jury’s view of the evidence was distorted by a series of erroneous rulings by the court,” he said.

The total $248 million verdict is the largest-ever product defect jury award against Seoul-based Hyundai, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. It’s the fifth-largest jury award this year in the U.S.

John Bohyer, the attorney for the Olsons’ families, didn’t immediately return calls for comment on Hyundai’s statement.

The case is Olson v. Hyundai Motor Co., DV-11-204, District Court, Lake County, Montana (Polson).

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