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St. Paul man files lawsuit against Kia and Hyundai, citing theft-friendly defect

The brands metro car thieves are targeting
The brands metro car thieves are targeting 02:19

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- A St. Paul man has filed a lawsuit against Kia and Hyundai, alleging that their vehicles suffer from a "significant defect" that has led to increased thefts.

The lawsuit, a class action complaint, was filed in the U.S. District Court on Friday by LaShaun Johnson. In the lawsuit, Johnson says his Kia Sorento was stolen on the morning of Aug. 24.

"According to the police, the thieves used a flat head screwdriver to take off the ignition column and start the car," the lawsuit said.

Johnson said he would not have bought the vehicle had he known the vehicles were "defective and more susceptible to theft."

The lawsuit alleges that Kia and Hyundai vehicles do not have engine immobilizers, which has resulted in a rise of thefts "as knowledge of the defect is now widespread."

A WCCO report on the rise of thefts of Kia and Hyundai vehicles in St. Paul was cited in the lawsuit. In that report, Ramsey County Undersheriff Mike Martin spoke on what he called a "design flaw" in Kia and Hyundai vehicles.

"All (thieves) have to do is break a window and get in and within seconds those cars can be compromised and be started with a USB port or even a pocket knife," he said.

There were just 18 Kia thefts in all of 2021, data from the St. Paul Police Department show, compared to 256 thefts as of mid-July - an increase of 1300%. Hyundai thefts increased 584% from 31 to 212 during the same period.

In response to the July report, a Hyundai representative said its company is aware of the problem and that its cars meet federal safety standards. WCCO has requested an updated statement from Hyundai on the lawsuit, but has not heard back yet.

A Kia representative says the company does not comment on active or pending litigation.

The lawsuit is seeking awarded damages in an amount to be determined at trial. 

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