Washington SC reinstates $8 million verdict against Hyundai

Chris Rizo Nov. 25, 2009, 2:00pm

Richard Sanders

OLYMPIA, Wash. (Legal Newsline)- The Washington state Supreme Court today reinstated an $8 million judgment against Hyundai Motor Co. over a car crash that left a man paralyzed.

In its 7-2 ruling Wednesday, the state high court overturned the Washington Court of Appeals, which had jejected a Clark County Superior Court jury's ruling for Jesse Magana of Vancouver, Wash.

Magana was left paralyzed in 1997, after the backward collapse of a front seat during a crash.

He was riding in the front passenger seat of a 1996 Hyundai Accent when the driver swerved to avoid an oncoming truck and hit two trees. The force of the air bag broke the seat's reclining mechanism, and Magana, who had been wearing a seat belt, was thrown out the back of the hatchback.

The court's majority said the automaker deliberately withheld documentation from Magana's attorneys concerning other crashes in which front seats similarly collapsed backward.

"Trial courts need not tolerate deliberate and willful discovery abuse," Justice Richard Sanders wrote for the majority. "This result appropriately compensates the other party, punishes Hyundai, and hopefully educates and deters others so inclined."

The court also found that that South Korea-based Hyundai should pay Magana's attorney's fees and legal expenses.

The case is Magana v. Hyundai Motor Am., 80922-4.

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