The lawsuit, filed by lead plaintiff William Precht, claims that Kia was aware of the brake switch defect for years, and went as far as to initiate recalls for a number of different models in 2009. The company also initiated recalls in May 2013 which did not include its 2011 Sportage, 2008-2010 Optima and 2008-2011 Sedona vehicles, despite the fact that those models were also affected. Kia allegedly expanded the recall to include the vehicles in November 2013 but did not notify consumers, the complaint states.
According to the lawsuit, "Defendant does not dispute the safety risk caused by the brake switch defect, yet it has not effectuated any purported recall of the class vehicles and has left class members with an acknowledged safety risk and unreimbursed repair bills."
In the lawsuit, Precht states he purchased a new Sportage vehicle in 2011, but began having difficulty engaging the car' automatic transmission during the winter of 2013. Precht alleges he was repeatedly unable to put the car in gear even after depressing the brake pedal, causing the anti-lock brake and front-wheel drive slippage icons to illuminate on the dash. He claims he was forced to manually access an override in order to place the vehicle into drive again.
According to the complaint, Precht took the car to an authorized Kia repair facility for assistance, only to be told that such repairs were not covered under the warranty, causing him to pay $140 to have the defect repaired.
The lawsuit alleges Kia knowingly hid from consumers that the vehicles' brake switch contained a defect that leads to brake light failure, cruise control not cancelling with depression of the brake pedal, the push button start not functioning and the shift interlock remaining stuck in park so the vehicle cannot be moved.
The complaint states that once the defect occurs in the cars, it poses a safety risk to both driver and passengers, with the brake light failure increasing the risk of rear-end collision, and the failure of cruise control failure increasing the risk for a front-end collision. Further, if the push button start doesn't function, the car cannot be shifted into drive or reverse from park, leaving individuals stranded, the lawsuit states.
The defect typically manifests itself shortly after the vehicles' warranties expire, the suit claims, resulting in the automaker refusing to cover repair costs of an issue it hid from consumers.
The lawsuit is seeking certification of a nationwide class of owners and lessees of the affected models, as well as a Florida subclass, and includes claims for state law violations, breach of warranty and negligence.
The suit is Precht v. Kia Motors America, Inc., case number 8:14-cv-01148, in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California.
The lead plaintiff is represented by Alan M. Mansfield of Consumer Law Group, and Charles J. LaDuca and William Anderson of Cueno Gilbert & Laduca LLP.