An Alabama jury has cleared Hyundai Motor Co. in a multimillion-dollar wrongful death suit alleging that the door latch and restraint systems on a 1991 Excel were defectively designed.
A Lowndes County Circuit Court jury in Hayneville, Ala., rejected all claims by the driver's family.
It was the second time the case went to trial. The jury failed to agree on a verdict at the first trial.
Plaintiffs' lawyer Greg Allen of Montgomery, Ala., said his clients are considering an appeal.
Christine Graham was alone in the car in October 1999 when her Excel pulled into the path of a fully loaded Freightliner 18-wheel tractor-trailer traveling more than 60 mph. The truck clipped the front end of the car.
The car had a two-point passive restraint system. Graham, who wasn't wearing her manual lap belt, was ejected when the driver's door bowed outward and opened. The two sides disagreed on whether she was wearing the shoulder belt.
Another vehicle ran over her and dragged her about 250 feet from the impact point.
At trial, the plaintiffs' expert witnesses contended that if the door latch and restraint system hadn't been defectively designed, the door wouldn't have opened and that Graham would have stayed in the car, surviving with only minor injuries.
Hyundai denied that the Excel was defective. Defense experts testified that no door latch system could have withstood the forces involved in the crash.
Thomas Vanderford Jr., Hyundai assistant general counsel, said the plaintiffs had rejected the company's settlement offer.
"It was nothing close to what they asked for," he said, referring to the plaintiffs' request for $30 million to $40 million at the first trial and for $9 million at the second trial.
Allen, the plaintiffs' lawyer, said: "It was a difficult case, but because of the defect, we felt we wanted to pursue it.
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