Kia loses $40 million wrongful death case

Seven years after a 16-year old girl was killed in a Kia Sephia due to a known problem, the automaker is ordered to pay $40 million.

No amount of money can bring back a loved one after they have passed, but a jury in Mobile, Alabama, decided that a $40 million judgment against Kia Motors for the wrongful death of Tiffany Stabler, then 16, would at least help take care of her family and discourage the automaker from making a similar decision in the future.

Stabler was killed in 2004 when her 1999 Kia Sephia overturned and ejected the 16-year old girl, killing her, despite witnesses claiming Tiffany had been wearing her seatbelt. Stabler's family later sued Kia when they found that the automaker had known her model was among many that were known to have faulty seatbelts, yet were not included in a recall of 1995-1998 model year Kias for the same problem.

An attorney for the Stabler family explained that Kia was aware that Sephias and Sportages made in 1999 and 2000 contained faulty seatbelt buckles when it issued a limited recall in December 2002, but the automaker did not choose to recall those models until August 2004.

"People were riding around in those cars that year and a half, and that's what happened to my clients' daughter," said Skip Finkbohner, attorney for the Stablers. "My client got the car, put tires on it, made sure it was safe for his daughter and gave it to her for her birthday."

Despite the recent decision by the jury, Kia refuses to admit fault in the case, saying in an e-mailed statement that it will repeal the verdict. "Kia Motors America is disappointed with the findings by the jury. While this was certainly a tragic event, our position remains that the driver of the vehicle was not wearing a seat belt. We will petition the court to set aside this verdict."

1.'Mobile County jury...' view