Jury finds Hyundai at fault in fatal crash


POLSON, Mont. - After several hours of deliberations, a Lake County jury returned a verdict finding Hyundai at fault in a fatal crash in 2011.

The parents of Missoula's Tanner and Trevor Olson sued Hyundai  for the crash that killed three people. The family alleged that a mechanism known as the steering knuckle broke, causing the vehicle to swerve into oncoming traffic. Hyundai's attorneys argued the driver was distracted by fireworks in the car.

The jury began deliberating late Monday afternoon, and stayed until around 10 p.m., returning Tuesday morning.  The verdict came in just after 5 p.m. Tuesday.

The jury awarded $1 million to each parent and $500,000 for each sibling.

Jurors found that Trevor Olson did not die instantly, and compensated his estate $2.6 million for lost earnings. They said Tanner Olson died instantly in the head-on crash on U.S. Highway 93 between Arlee and Ravalli.

After the verdict, both sides made their arguments for and against more damages to be awarded to the plaintiffs, who believed Hyundai should give the Olsons $160 million for punitive damages. More than that was awarded.

A verdict for punitive damages was handed down later Tuesday evening, stating Hyundai Motor Company must pay the Olson family $150 million in damages and Hyundai Motor America will pay $90 million in damages.

The jury heard testimony for 11 days -- they heard from experts from both sides, and reviewed hundreds of pages of evidence. There were claims that Hyundai's steering knuckle has been defective in other cases.

This is a civil case and, quite unlike a criminal case, the jury vote doesn't have to be unanimous. Instead the Olson family needed to have persuaded the jury by a preponderance of evidence that Hyundai was at fault, meaning the Olsons would win if the jury believes there is a 51-percent chance that Hyundai was negligent.

An Arlee woman in the other car also was killed in the crash, but her estate was not in the lawsuit.


Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that each parent was awarded $5 million. We regret the error.

More Stories