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St. Louis City threatens Kia and Hyundai with lawsuit...over what???

By Ray McCarty, President and CEO, Associated Industries of Missouri



St. Louis City Counselor Sheena Hamilton

August 30, 2022 - Well, we saw articles about it, but until you actually read the full letter from St. Louis City Counselor Sheena Hamilton to legal counsel for Kia America, Inc., and Hyundai Motor North America, you cannot fully appreciate the level of disconnect displayed by government leaders representing the City of St. Louis.


Residents in the City of St. Louis, according to the letter, have experienced 356 thefts of Kia or Hyundai vehicles from August 1 through August 13, 2022. The City's solution: crack down on the thieves? Protect citizens with increased patrols? Install more cameras watching public streets? NO! The City has decided they should sue the makers of the vehicles!!!


On what grounds, you ask? Well, apparently the stolen vehicles represent 77% of the vehicles stolen during this time frame. The thieves are "often juveniles" and the stolen vehicles have been used in shootouts between the thieves. The stolen vehicles are also "involved in all manner of mayhem on City streets, including erratic driving and speeding."


So rather than beef up security, the City of St. Louis decided the best way to protect residents is to sue the car makers because they "failed to install engine immobilizers in many of their vehicles, and the respective failures have caused an epidemic of car thefts throughout the nation." I wish we were kidding, but this is a direct quote from the August 19, 2022 letter.


In the letter, the City of St. Louis "demands that Kia and Hyundai mitigate the defective conditions providing thieves -including teenagers as young as thirteen- the instrumentalities by which they are destroying property, endangering City drivers and themselves, and, in some cases, committing violent felonies." And here's the threat: "If within 30 days, Kia and Hyundai fail to make satisfactory progress to mitigate the public nuisance you have created, I will seek all legal remedies available to the City, including directing the Affirmative Litigation Unit in this Civil Law Department to file suit." All quotes are directly from City Counselor Hamilton's letter.


Creating an imaginary "defect" and then suing the manufacturer of a product that is used in commission of a crime, rather than pursuing the perpetrator of the crime, makes little sense to me. The City of St. Louis has, however, exposed a legal strategy that we fear will be employed against other companies. Suing the makers of products, rather than finding and prosecuting the true criminals may be the next strategy for cities looking to be softer on crime while complaining about the increase in crime.


Whatever the outcome, watch out for additional developments as I doubt this is the last time we will hear about such a creative lawsuit. We will keep you posted of any developments.

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