June 23, 2021 – Barton Legal S.C. Files Class Action Against Kia America, Inc., Hyundai Motor America, and Hyundai Kia America Design Center, Inc. in the Milwaukee County Circuit Court.
The City of Milwaukee has seen a massive spike in motor vehicle thefts in 2021—a 193% increase in the last year. The Milwaukee Police Department has described the situation as a car theft “epidemic.” The car thieves’ main targets are Hyundais and Kias, which account for approximately 66% of all thefts across all vehicles.
Kia and Hyundai thefts have increased by a whopping 2,500% since this time last year. The principal culprits, many of whom are middle-schoolers, have even coined themselves the “Kia Boyz,” in an apparent homage to the ease with which these cars are stolen. Indeed, Kia and Hyundai vehicles—who share common ownership, and hence, common design features—are being stolen at such an alarming rate that the Milwaukee Police Department (“MPD”) is handing out free steering wheel locks to these vehicle owners.
To curb this epidemic, Barton Legal S.C. filed a class action suit against Kia and Hyundai, as well as their joint design center, Hyundai Kia America Technical Center (“HATCI”). As the Complaint details, these car thieves figured out what an entire team of Hyundai and Kia engineers seemingly missed: the companies’ vehicles are designed and manufactured with subpar security measures, thereby making them incredibly easy to steal. These design flaws pose significant safety risks and create a substantial financial burden for consumers.
If you live in Wisconsin and own a Hyundai or a Kia vehicle, you may have legal rights and options that you can exercise, regardless of whether your car has been stolen. For more information, please fill out this short questionnaire:
Additional information about this questionnaire, the status of the case, and next steps is set forth below.
Q: Why was the lawsuit filed under seal?
A: Pursuant to the pleading requirements governing certain claims that were asserted, the Complaint alleges that many Kia and Hyundai vehicles are equipped with a defect that makes them incredibly easy to steal. Although local media outlets have reported as much, the Complaint describes in detail the nature of the common defect present in these vehicles, including how the thieves are stealing these cars. Given the incredible public safety threat this has created, we did not want to exacerbate this problem by providing aspiring car thieves, in Milwaukee or elsewhere, a playbook on how to steal these vehicles. That said, the public importance of open, transparent judicial proceedings cannot be overstated. Thus, we will expeditiously begin working with the Court and all relevant parties to file a publicly available, redacted version of the complaint to balance these competing concerns.
Q: What is the purpose of the questionnaire?
A: We appreciate your time in answering the questionnaire, as it will help us gather information about the many individuals affected by this epidemic. The questionnaire will also assist us in gathering additional information to expand the scope of the lawsuit, including by potentially bringing individual claims on your behalf. The questionnaire also asks you to provide your contact information (email address and phone number), which will allow us to keep you abreast of developments and contact you as needed. As discussed below, although filling out the questionnaire does not automatically create an attorney-client relationship between you and Barton Legal S.C., the information you provide will be maintained in strict confidence pursuant to our obligations to prospective clients under the Wisconsin Rules of Professional Conduct.
Q: What happens after I fill out the questionnaire?
A: At this early stage, you do not need to do anything to join the class action. However, we would like to hear from anyone who knows or believes they have been affected by this epidemic. Submitting your information will allow you to receive updates as the lawsuit moves forward.
Given the pervasive nature of this auto theft spree, we anticipate a high volume of responses. Thus, your patience is appreciated as we sort through and triage the information we receive. Although we will do our best to contact everyone interested in, and eligible to join the lawsuit, we may be unable to respond to everyone in a timely fashion. Completing the questionnaire does not establish an attorney-client relationship with Barton Legal S.C. Should you ultimately wish to retain Barton Legal S.C., the scope of the firm’s representation will be subject to negotiated and executed retainer agreement.
Q: What happens next in the lawsuit?
A: Now that the Summons & Complaint have been filed, Defendants will be “served” with the lawsuit, which requires them to answer or respond to the Complaint’s allegations by a certain date. Defendants may “answer” the allegations in the Complaint, which moves the case into the discovery phase. This is the part of the lawsuit where we gather information from the Defendants to: (i) prove the nature of the defect; and (ii) certify the case as a class action by showing that other plaintiffs are “similarly situated” to those identified in the Complaint.
Here, however, we expect Defendants to deny any liability and seek dismissal of the entire suit. Barton Legal S.C. would then respond to Defendants’ motion and the Court will issue a ruling regarding the sufficiency of the Complaint. Apart from causing significant delay, this legal maneuver prevents us from obtaining discovery from the Defendants about the scope and extent of the defect until the Court rules on Defendants’ motion. We expect Defendants to employ this tactic here, given the number of vehicles affected by the design defect alleged in the Complaint.
Q: What else can I do to help?
A: Although Kia and Hyundai may try to ignore this problem, it’s only getting worse and your voice needs to be heard. Thus, in addition to filling out the questionnaire, anyone who has had their car stolen should: (i) lodge a grievance with the Kia and/or Hyundai customer care center; and (ii) file a complaint with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (“NHTSA”). Your local elected officials may also be a good resource to better understand how you can ensure that Kia and Hyundai quickly solve the problem they created.
- Kia Consumer Affairs Complaint Form
- Hyundai Consumer Affairs Complaint Form
- NHTSA Vehicle Safety Complaint Form
For each Complaint Form, please have available your vehicle identification number, police report, and other documentation you received about your stolen car (e.g., repair estimate).