A U.S. judge has rejected requests from Hyundai and Kia to dismiss a lawsuit by several hundred insurers seeking to recover more than $1 billion. Customers are allegedly owed by drivers whose vehicles were stolen or damaged during a wave of social media-inspired thefts became.
In Wednesday’s American decision, U.S. District Judge James Selna in Santa Ana, California, rejected arguments that it was unfair to allow insurers to recover damages because they collected premiums and assumed the risk of theft without specifically identifying the victim’s drivers.
Selna also found sufficient evidence that the lack of anti-theft protection on 14.3 million Hyundai’s and Kia’s produced between 2011 and 2022 made thefts predictable, despite assurances from South Korean automakers that their cars were safe. According to him, the complaint supports the assumption that the thefts were a “foreseeable consequence” of the actions of Hyundai and Kia.
“Although (the insurers) received premiums, the defendants allegedly failed to install anti-theft devices required by federal regulations,” Selna wrote.“So the degree of guilt lies almost entirely with the defendants. On Thursday, Hyundai said it was disappointed by the decision and looked forward to its eventual release. In addition, dealers have installed anti-theft software in more than a million vehicles. Kia said it believes the plaintiffs’ legal claims are without merit and that its vehicles meet federal standards for safety and theft protection. Both companies also said they were cooperating with law enforcement on matters related to the theft. Attorneys for the insurers did not respond to requests for comment.
Hyundai and the Kia have attracted widespread criticism and controversy for not installing anti-theft devices, called immobilizers, in most of their vehicles. There was a spike of thefts in 2021, exacerbated by TikTok videos showing how to steal a car without contact or immobilizer in seconds with the push of a button.
On October 31, Selna granted preliminary approval to a class action lawsuit with Hyundai and Kia involving more than 9 million vehicles.That settlement has been valued at $200 million, with up to $145 million of the payments going to drivers. Selna also oversees litigation by municipalities seeking to recoup public safety and other costs tied to vehicle thefts.