A Philadelphia jury returned a verdict worth roughly $5.6 million in a class action lawsuit involving allegations that thousands of models of the Kia Sephia sedan had defective brake systems. According to plaintiff’s attorneys in Samuel-Bassett v. Kia Motors America, Inc., the Pennsylvania-only class included some 9,400 purchasers of Sephia models made from 1997 through 2000. The eight-member jury’s verdict provides for each member of the class to receive $600 in compensation for repairs and replacements for the brake systems, which were prone to premature wear and tear. Class counsel in Samuel-Bassett were Alan M. Feldman and Edward S. Goldis, Michael Donovan of Donovan Searles, and James Francis of Francis & Mailman.
In an opinion in support of his decision to uphold the verdict, trial judge Mark I. Bernstein found that the class represented by Philadelphia resident Shamell Samuel-Bassett had met all the requirements for certification under Pennsylvania’s rules of civil procedure for her breach of warranty claims. “There is sufficient record evidence that defendant knew that a vast number of its Sephia automobiles between 1997 and 2001 required replacement of brake pads and rotors at intervals of less than 5,000 miles,” Bernstein wrote in that opinion. Brake pads are supposed to last between 20,000 and 30,000 miles. The Kia manual recommends that the Sephia owner schedule a brake pad check by 30,000, Bernstein noted. He highlighted some of the statistical evidence presented by the plaintiff: 55 percent of all Sephia 1997 models, 88 percent of the 1998 models and 70 percent of the 1999 models required brake repair within the first year of being driven.
The jury’s award in favor of the class and against Kia was ultimately affirmed by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. With interest and attorneys’ fees, Kia paid more than $10 million to satisfy the judgment.