Parents Sue Kia After Teens Killed in Stolen Crashed SUV


A New York Kia Sportage crash that killed four teens and injured two others was allegedly caused by Kia even though the 2021 Kia Sportage was stolen and traveling 100 mph when it crashed into a wall.

The wrongful death lawsuit was filed by two mothers of two of the deceased teens who claim the crash would not have occurred if Kia would have installed engine immobilizers in the Sportage.

According to the lawsuit: "An engine immobilizer is a critical piece of electronic security technology that serves as a crucial tool in minimizing the risk of vehicle theft. Immobilizers prevent vehicles from being started unless a unique code is transmitted from the vehicle’s key."

In 2021, criminals began posting videos online about how to steal Hyundai and Kia vehicles by breaking into the vehicle, removing the steering column and using a USB cable to bypass the security system.

It's believed the first class action lawsuit was filed in 2021 for Wisconsin customers where the problem allegedly first began.

The online videos show exactly how to steal the Hyundai or Kia vehicle, and then to make the theft a "challenge," criminals are encouraged to post their own videos showing how they stole the vehicles.

The lawsuit said, "numerous countries have adopted legislation requiring immobilizers as standard equipment for new automobiles."

But what the lawsuit doesn't mention is the U.S. isn't one of those countries, as engine immobilizers are not required by U.S. laws.

The Kia Sportage Crash

The New York Kia Sportage crash occurred Oct. 24, 2022, after a 16-year-old boy drove the stolen Kia into a wall at 100 mph, killing four teens: Marcus Webster, 19, Swazine Swindle, 17, Kevin Payne Jr., 16, and Ahjanae Harper, 14.

The teens who died were ejected from the Sportage.

The 16-year-old driver suffered minor injuries and was released from the hospital. At the time he was charged with criminal possession of stolen property and unauthorized use of a vehicle, then released to later appear in court.

Currently he is facing much more serious charges, including four counts of second-degree manslaughter.

Another occupant of the stolen Sportage was a 14-year-old girl who was hospitalized and later released.

The Kia theft lawsuit was filed by the mothers of Kevin Payne Jr. and Swazine Swindle, and both mothers claim the only reason their children are dead is because the Kia Sportage was not equipped with an immobilizer.

The lawsuit alleges the teens lost their lives "because of the reckless and negligent behavior of Kia" which "caused their beloved sons’ premature deaths."

Hyundai and Kia Theft Lawsuits

Since the Hyundai and Kia theft videos began appearing online in 2021, more than 200 lawsuits, mostly class actions, have been filed against the automakers blaming them for the thefts and resulting damage, injuries and deaths.

Those lawsuits allege all 2011-2021 Hyundai and Kia models are defective, and at least 17 state attorneys general have joined the bruhaha and told Hyundai and Kia to recall all the vehicles. In addition, multiple insurance companies have also sued the automakers.

However, federal safety defect recalls are issued for safety defects, not because criminals break into vehicles and steal them.

Furthermore, numerous cities have filed lawsuits against the automakers by alleging it isn't the fault of teenage criminals in their cities that have caused the thefts. Those cities claim Hyundai and Kia caused the problem because non-mandated engine immobilizers were not included on the stolen vehicles.

One of those cities that sued is Buffalo, where the four New York teens died in the stolen Kia Sportage.

Although multiple cities and states blame Hyundai and Kia for the thefts, some of the teens involved in the thefts have been arrested, but they were immediately released from custody.

In one incident which occurred in New York, two boys, ages 15 and 16, stole a Kia, crashed the vehicle then fled the scene. Police later found the two teens and took them into custody. However, they were only issued appearance tickets and released.

This was after the 16-year-old had already been issued an earlier appearance ticket and released after stealing a Hyundai vehicle two weeks before.

And days ago, Chicago teens stole a Hyundai which crashed into a vehicle carrying a family in a Ford truck. Chicago police said two boys, ages 17 and 14, face one misdemeanor count of criminal trespassing. The crash killed a 6-month old child.

Most Stolen Vehicles in 2021

More than 200 lawsuits and other actions claim the thefts and crashes were caused by a lack of engine immobilizers in all 2011-2021 Hyundai and Kia models.

If the problem is due to a lack of engine immobilizers, then it follows model year 2011-2021 Hyundai and Kia vehicles would be on the top of the list for most stolen models.

However, in 2021 before teenage criminals were being influenced by online videos, no Hyundai or Kia model made the top 10 most-stolen vehicle list in 2021 based on data from the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB).

Top 10 Stolen Vehicles For 2021

1. Chevrolet Pick-Up (Full Size)
2. Ford Pick-Up (Full Size)
3. Honda Civic
4. Honda Accord
5. Toyota Camry
6. GMC Pick-Up (Full Size)
7. Nissan Altima
8. Honda CR-V
9. Jeep Cherokee/Grand Cherokee
10. Toyota Corolla

The research doesn't track how many of those stolen vehicles were equipped with engine immobilizers. Additionally, lawyers haven't announced if the above automakers will be sued because criminals broke into and stole the vehicles.

Hyundai and Kia have always insisted teenagers are causing the problems, not a lack of immobilizers. The automakers say all the vehicles meet federal safety standards, but because of all the heat poured on them, Hyundai and Kia are taking action to make it more difficult to steal the vehicles.

The Kia theft lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of New York: Sherisse Payne, Individually, and as the Proposed Administrator of the Estate of Kevin Payne, Jr., and Tysheen Daniels, Individually, and as the Proposed Administrator of the Estate of Swazine Swindle, vs. Kia Corporation, et al.

The plaintiffs are represented by MLG Attorneys At Law, APLC, and Richmond Vona, LLC.

We thank for reprint permission.

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